Rory McIlroy has revealed golf, not politics, was the only topic of conversation in his much-publicised recent round with US president Donald Trump.
The four-time major winner had already released a statement at the end of last week defending his decision to accept an invitation to join Trump for a game in Florida a week past Sunday.
But it was raised again in a press conference as he prepares to make his return from a rib injury in the WGC-Mexico Championship, which starts tomorrow.
“I guess I just approached it, as I said in my statement, as a round of golf,” said McIlroy. “If it had been Obama I would have gone to play. I’ve played golf with President Clinton, I’ve spent time with President Bush.
“Putting beliefs and whatever to one side, I just wanted to have an experience that I might not ever get [again]; play golf with a sitting president.”
Addressing criticism aimed at him, the 27-year-old added: “You can respect the guy, not respect the guy, I don’t care.
“But, if someone has a chance to play in that scenario and just sort of experience the whole thing ... it’s not as if we were speaking foreign policy out there.
“We were talking about golf and the grass that he put on the greens and the grass that he’s putting on the greens at [Trump-owned] Doral.
“We talked golf the entire day. I think he was happier to talk golf than anything else that he has to do these days.”
McIlroy insists he has completely recovered from the injury that has kept him out since losing to Grame Storm in a play-off at the SA Open in January as he makes his comeback at Chapultepec Golf Club.
“I’m actually, if anything, swinging it faster than I was before that injury because there was a little bit of tiredness,” he said.
“I think I tested a lot of clubs in the off-season and I made a lot of swings and I think everything just got a little bit tired, muscles stiffened up.
“But I feel like I’m probably stronger now than I was in say November, December last year. Hopefully it’s a blessing in disguise.”
The PGA of America is to permit the wearing of shorts during practice rounds at this year’s US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
The move follows the European Tour relaxing its clothing rules last season and will be welcomed by players in August in North Carolina, where the state had its third-hottest summer on record last year.
Aberdonian Clarke Lutton chalked up the second victory of his professional career in Spain.
Lutton’s success came on the Gecko Tour at Calanova, where he carded rounds of 67 and 70 for a seven-under-par total, winning by a shot from Swiss player Jean Luc Burnier.
“I played very solid for two days,” said Lutton, who was based in Qatar for a spell but now lives outside Marbella. “My short game and putting were fantastic, managing to save a lot of shots and gain a couple as well.”
His previous victory came on the MENA Tour, recording a wire-to-wire success in the inaugural Golf Citizen Classic on the MENA Tour at The Els Club in Dubai in 2015.
“This has just given me the boost I needed again to keep going,” he added. “I’ve had a relatively disappointing winter with regards to scoring, but I’ve been swinging the club really well for a number of weeks now.
“I’m really looking forward to starting my season properly in Morocco in two weeks’ time on the MENA Tour before turning my attention to the Alps Tour.”
Connor Syme is sitting second, one off the lead, after signing for a 67 in the first round of the African Amateur Championship at Leopard Creek in Mpumalanga.
The Drumoig player’s five-under-par effort was bettered by only Christo Lamprecht as he took up where he’d left off in winning the South African Amateur Championship last Friday.
Eric McIntosh, the reigning Scottish Boys’ champion from Bruntsfield Links, is sitting joint-third on 69.
Syme’s effort, coupled mainly with a spirited level-par 72 from Liam Johnston, left Scotland sharing the lead with a South African Junior side in the team event.
World No 6 Robert MacIntyre spearheads the Scottish challenge in the Spanish Amateur Championship, which starts today at El Saler.
“I’m looking forward to kick-starting the season on what is one of the best courses in Spain,” said the Glencruitten left-hander, who reached the final of the Amateur Championship last year.
“It’s been an up and down start to the season with being ill in Australia then doing okay at the Australian Am (reaching the semi-finals). So I’m ready to get things going again.”
MacIntyre is joined in this week’s event by fellow GB&I squad member Barry Hume, as well as last year’s Scottish Order of Merit winner Euan McIntosh and also Christopher Maclean.
“Since being out in Australia, I have not been doing much other than gym work and swing work as there were a few things needing ironed out, which I feel are in great shape,” he added. “Physically, I have also moved forward as at the end of last year I got a few little injuries so I want to keep them away.”
The ladies’ equivalent also gets underway today at Sherry Golf Jerez, where Shannon McWilliam (Aboyne), Gabrielle Macdonald (Craigielaw) and Hannah McCook (Grantown-on-Spey) are flying the Saltire.
David Law missed out on securing a place in the Tshwane Open after he had to settle for a one-over 73 in an 18-hole qualifer at Irene County Club.
Fifteen players earned spots in the event, including former Scottish Open Stroke-Play champion Robert Dinwiddie and fellow Englishmen Jeff Inglis, Laurie Canter, Steve Surry and Mark Foster.
Kylie Henry is seven shots off the lead after opening with a 73 in the Sun International Ladies Challenge at Sun City in South Africa.
Norway’s Cecilie Lundgreen and Bonita Bredenhann from Namibia set the pace on the Gary Player-designed course with matching six-under 66s.
Falkirk’s Ryan Campbell finished fifth after closing 75 for two-over-par 218 total in Evolve Pro Tour event at Hacienda Riquelme.
Three-time European Tour winner Miguel Angel Martin won by 12 shots with a 13-under total (67-68-69).