May 20, 2016 / 7:32 AM / 3 years ago

Muirfield ban on women members tarnished golf's image: McIlroy

Golf - Dubai Duty Free Irish Open - The K Club, County Kildare, Ireland - 19/5/16 Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tees off at the 13th hole during the first round Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs Livepic

(Reuters) - World number three Rory McIlroy believes Muirfield’s decision not to admit women members has tarnished golf’s image and backs the move to drop the course from the list of venues for Britain’s Open championship.

Muirfield, close to Edinburgh, has retained a male-only membership policy since it was founded in 1744 and a vote to admit women members fell short of the required two-thirds majority on Thursday.

“The damage to golf’s image is more important than us losing an Open course. We have such a strong ladies tour. We have the Olympics coming up, which is all about including everyone,” McIlroy, 27, told British media.

“The girls are going to get so much exposure from being in the Olympics with the men. It’s 2016. Time moves on... Everyone should have the opportunity to join a club if they want to.

“Especially when we are trying to break out of this stuffy old image, this is not what we need... In this day and age it is a little disappointing to see. I think the R&A made the right decision,” said the Northern Irish golfer.

Four-times major champion McIlroy was two strokes behind U.S. Masters winner Danny Willett, who finished with 65, after the first round of the Irish Open on Thursday.

Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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