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Clarke defends McIlroy over Olympic games decision

Criticism directed towards four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy for pulling out of the Olympics has been “very harsh” – that’s the view of his Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, who was speaking ahead of hosting the Costa Smeralda Invitational in Sardinia.

Clarke also says he spoke to McIlroy before his compatriot made his Olympic decision, while the 47-year-old also revealed he would prefer his players to be as fresh as possible before teeing it up against the U.S. team in September.

“He [McIlroy] is looking forward to becoming a father and having kids, so I think the criticism levelled towards him is very harsh,” said Clarke, who is currently attending the Costa Smeralda Invitational with several other stars to raise money for charity. “We don’t know enough about the virus and right now he’s doing what he feels is best as each and what every athlete in every other sport is entitled to do.

“I know Rory very well, I spoke to him on Monday about it before he made his announcement,” added Clarke. “It’s a difficult one, they’ve got a very busy summer and because the Olympics are in there, things are going to get much more condensed and because of that the requirements on the players is much more intense,” added the former Open Champion.

“Guys might like to have a week off or whatever they need to do, but because the Olympics are there now, that opportunity is taken away from them. Personally I’d like the guys as fresh as possible for the Ryder Cup.

“Thankfully I’m old enough that I didn’t have to make that decision [to play in the Olympics]. I didn’t have to make a decision on who I was going to play for and if I was going to play,” admitted Clarke. “The Olympics is different for us [golfers] because whilst a Gold Medal is an unbelievable achievement, it’s not an Open Championship, it’s not a Masters, a U.S. Open or a USPGA Championship. They’re our majors and in time, the Olympics will be too. That takes a bit of time and at the moment those guys are making decisions based on their family lives and you have to respect that.”

The 14-time European winner also revealed his joy at being in Sardinia for the Costa Smeralda Invitational at Pevero Golf Club. Last year’s event raised over £100,000 for the children’s charities Autism Rocks and UNICEF Road to Awareness. This year the Costa Smeralda Invitational is proud to partner with UNICEF Road to Awareness to support its domestic and international humanitarian work.