BALTRAY, Ireland - A day after describing the Ryder Cup as a mere "exhibition," Rory McIlroy played alongside European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie in the first round of the Irish Open.
McIlroy said he stood by his comments after shooting a 3-under 69 on Thursday.
"It's a great spectacle for golf, but an exhibition at the end of the day and it should be there to be enjoyed," he said Wednesday. "I'm sure it's a great experience. But in the big scheme of things, it's not that important an event for me."
Montgomerie, a longtime European Ryder Cup star who is captain for the 2010 event at Celtic Manor in Wales, said the two did not discuss the comments during Thursday's round.
"He'll understand what it's all about when he's part of it," Montgomerie said.
After two early bogeys, the 20-year-old McIlroy had a run of five birdies to finish six shots behind leader Francesco Molinari.
McIlroy made his breakthrough this year by winning the Dubai Desert Classic. He then played seven tournaments in the United States, earning five top-20 finishes. His best performance came at the Accenture Match Play, where he reached the quarterfinals before losing 2 and 1 to eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy.
McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, had a 77 last week to miss the cut in the Players Championship, the first time he has missed the cut this year on the PGA Tour.
He expects to play three more events in America, two majors and the Bridgestone Invitational.
"I'm really glad to be back in Europe and playing on the European Tour. The first event back is in Ireland, a great one for myself," he said.
He plans to play in Europe this summer.