Put your money on Rory McIlory this week. If his play glows half as hot as his Open commentary, McIlroy might yet set fire to Muirfield. McIlroy politely told Sir Nick Faldo to mind his own business, made it plain that he did not share Muirfield’s attitude towards women members and gave his full support to Wayne Rooney in the escalating stand-off with Manchester United.
In the latter regard, McIlory a rare beast among the United congregation, many of whom would see Rooney out of the door in the time it takes to say hello Juan Mata. Doubtless McIlroy empathises more than your average Red with the struggles of a genius in retreat and feels Rooney is worthy of every consideration by the David Moyes regime.
“If I were Wayne I would be very confused, too. He’s had nine great season at Man utd, and reading between the lines of what’s being said I don’t think he needs to prove himself to anyone. I don’t think he needs to prove himself to the new manager.”
McIlroy was out on a limb also on the politics of team selection. “I don’t think he should be playing second fiddle to (Robin) van Persie. He’s been a great player for United and very loyal player. I guess if I were him I’d probably be in the same position. So I hope he gets it sorted pretty quickly and stays at Old Trafford.
“I guess he just wants to play football. I think he is that sort of player. He just wants to get on the pitch and show what he can do. If he doesn’t feel he can do that at United he’ll obviously go elsewhere. I think that’s very understandable.”
On equally febrile matters, McIlroy was teased from his initial silence to pronounce his opposition to the fate of women, who almost a century after they were granted the vote are still not welcome as members at Muirfield. “It’s something that shouldn’t happen these days. It’s something we shouldn’t even be talking about,” McIlroy said.
Asked whether any of his generation would want to join a single-gender institution, McIlroy could not even comprehend the framing of the question. “It’s something I’ve never thought about. I just don’t think it’s something that is a real issue anymore. Obviously it’s an issue at some golf clubs but in terms of life in general I think men and women are treated equally for the most part these days. And that’s the way it should be.”
That last observation should be pinned above the clubhouse door, and circulated around the offices of the R&A, who promised to reflect on the issue of the day after this great tournament has concluded. R&A chief executive Peter Dawson set out in his own forensic way why he thought the membership issue does not have a material impact on female participation in golf, explaining that the perfectly legal affiliation of men, and for that matter, women in homogenous groups is just one of the many harmless things human beings do.
McIlroy intuitively sees through that argument, recognises instinctively the meaning of exclusion and feels uncomfortable in an environment untouched by the emancipation of women elsewhere in society. He was none too pleased with Faldo, either.
There was a maturity about his response to Faldo’s advice to ‘concentrate on the golf’ and a humour about his response. “I saw what he said, that I should be on the course nine to five. I was on the range at 6:15 and got out of the gym at 6:15pm, actually a 12-hour day compared to his eight hour day.
“I know how these things work. I know he wasn’t trying to get on my case at all, that he was offering words of advice in some way. But as I said I think he has to remember how hard this game can be at times.”