Critical after a first ballot last May failed by just 14 votes to admit women members, McIlroy took a fresh swipe at the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which owns and runs the East Lothian course, earlier this week despite a second vote gaining the two-thirds majority required.
The world No 3 said it was “horrendous” that 123 members had still voted “no” in that second poll, claimed that “every time I go to Muirfield now I won’t have a great taste in my mouth” and, though prepared to play there when it next stages the Open Championship, insisted that “I won’t be be having many cups of tea with the members afterwards”.
McIlroy also said that “Muirfield wouldn’t be one of my favourite Open rota courses”, which is based on him missing the cut on the one and only occasion so far in the world’s oldest major following rounds of 79 and 75 in 2013, but Knox, in contrast, is delighted the revered venue is set to host the event again, probably staging it for a 17th time in either 2022 or 2023.
“People ask ask me all the time what my favourite course is in Scotland and it is definitely Muirfield,” Knox told The Scotsman. “When I was younger, I was lucky enough that my dad got me on to play three or four times and I always really enjoyed going there.
“We played once a couple of weeks after The Open there in 2002, when Ernie Els won in a play-off. The grandstands were still up and I remember thinking, ‘man, I hope one day I can play in an Open in front of all these people and be walking up the last hole with its big grandstand’. It was a cool moment in my junior career and, fortunately, I’m going to get a chance to see that dream come true. I was disappointed not to make the last Open there in 2013, so hopefully I’ll make the next one.”
On the membership situation, the Scottish No 1 took a more diplomatic tone than McIlroy, though he is certainly in agreement about the subject in general. “In this day and age, of course there should be women members,” he added. “That’s the world we live in now and that’s the way it should be. Everybody is equal and for Muirfield to have women members is only going to be positive for the club in my opinion.
“The R&A want to host The Open there, obviously, as it’s such a great course and it is great for Scotland in general when you have the biggest tournament on the best courses and Muirfield is right up there, if not the best course in Scotland – they need to be hosting the event.”
Would he be prepared to sit down with the members for a cup of tea when that happens? “Sure, but I wouldn’t want to do it in the clubhouse because I don’t like putting a shirt, tie and jacket on,” replied Knox, laughing.
Catriona Matthew, the Scottish women’s No 1, described Muirfield admitting women members as a “positive step” and now Charley Hull, who was alongside the Scot in Team GB during golf’s return to the Olympics last summer, has said she would have no hesitation playing there if the venue staged the British Women’s Open one day.
Speaking as Bridgestone announced an Olympic partnership activation campaign “Chase your dream, no matter what”, the English player said: “I think it’s good that they’ve changed their minds. I’m happy it has changed. You never know, the Women’s British Open could be played there one day now. I’d play there. It’s a good golf course. I don’t have to go into the clubhouse. A golf course is a golf course to me.”