Augusta (United States) (AFP) - Rory McIlroy would "think twice" about playing another round with US President Donald Trump after the backlash he received from a February round at Trump International in Florida.
Four-time major winner McIlroy, trying to complete a career grand slam by winning the Masters, said he felt at the time that turning down Trump's invitation would have been a worse option.
"I felt I would have been making more of a statement if I had turned it down," McIlroy said. "It's not a tough place to be put in, but it was a round of golf and nothing more.
"Would I do it again? After the sort of backlash I received, I'd think twice about it."
McIlroy decision to play golf with Trump, whose statements about women have raised eyebrows, contrasted sharply with his own pro-women stand against members of Muirfield golf club in Scotland who disapprove of allowing women members.
Muirfield voted 80% in favor of admitting women earlier this year, but McIlroy said it was "obscene" that some had voted against the motion, noting "I won't be having many cups of tea with the members."
- Different things -
But when asked Tuesday at Augusta National how that was any different from playing a round with Trump after the US President's comments about sexual assault and other controversies, McIlroy admitted, "It's a difficult one."
But he said Muirfield members and the US President were "two completely different things" and did not defend Trump's remarks.
Trump's presidential campaign was nearly derailed last year by sexual harassment charges and his boasts about groping women.
"I've spent time in President Trump's company before and that does not mean that I agree with everything he says. Actually the opposite," McIlroy said.
"We were never in a day and age where we could say those things, but some thought it was appropriate."
McIlroy said he wanted to see the scene around Trump and that no political issues came up as they toured the Trump-owned layout.
"Whenever an invitation or a request comes my way, I don't want to say I jump at the chance, but at the same time, to see the Secret Service, to see the scene, I mean, that's really what I was going for," McIlroy said.
"There was not one bit of politics discussed in that round of golf. He was more interested talking about the grass that he just put on the greens."
McIlroy had remarked that he had enjoyed a quiet run-up to the year's first major tournament, which starts Thursday at Augusta National with top-ranked Dustin Johnson as the favorite after three wins in a row.
"It has been a relatively quiet buildup to the Masters for me, which has been quite nice," McIlroy said. "It's made a bit of a change from the last couple of years, especially '15, coming off the back of two major wins in a row and going for the career Grand Slam.
"Obviously this year, with Dustin winning three times, he's the form player right now... I don't feel like I can fly under the radar anymore, but at the same time, it has sort of felt that way to me and it has been nice to be able to prepare and just go about my business and try to get ready for this tournament."