By Rory Carroll
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy on Wednesday said golf should stage more of its biggest tournaments at public courses to make the game more accessible.
This week's PGA Championship is being held at TPG Harding Park in San Francisco, a municipal course that fell on hard times -- even being used as a parking lot for the 1998 U.S. Open -- before undergoing an extensive renovation in 2002-2003.
It also marks the second consecutive year that the PGA of America has held the major at a public course following last year's tournament at Bethpage Black in Long Island. Next year's U.S. Open will be held at the public Torrey Pines in San Diego.
"I've always said that golf, everywhere in the world, but I think especially in the United States, it can become more accessible still, and I think bringing the biggest tournaments in the world to public courses is a step in the right direction," four-time major winner McIlroy told reporters.
"We're always going to go to private courses because some of the private courses are some of the best in the world, and they're courses that test the top players," he said.
"But at the same time, it's very refreshing that we do come to places like here, Bethpage, Torrey Pines.
"It is important to let the public see us on golf courses that they've played before, that are accessible for them, that aren't too expensive to get on."
The par-70, 7,251-yard Harding course, with its hanging Cypress trees, narrow fairways and nasty rough, will offer a stern test to the players even though there will be no fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 31-year-old Northern Irishman, whose four major titles include PGA Championship victories in 2012 and 2014, said the sport still has work to do when it comes to reaching out to communities.
"Golf has still got a fair bit to go to be as inclusive and as accessible as it needs to be, but look, it's a step in the right direction."
(Editing by Toby Davis)