Rory McIlroy has questioned whether the European golfers who decided against travelling to the United States for the resumption of the PGA Tour "really care" about their careers.

The Northern Irishman is known for his outspoken comments and his latest verbal volley is likely to provoke a strong reaction, especially as it applies to several of his Ryder Cup team-mates.

McIlroy finished in a tie for 32nd at the Charles Schwab Challenge as professional golf returned from its coronavirus-enforced shutdown last week, but the likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari were absent.

With ranking points on the line once again, those who choose to sit out events will suffer, but McIlroy has little sympathy for them.

"Personally, if I were in their shoes and I was asked to come over to the States and shelter in place or quarantine for two weeks before these tournaments, I would have done that," said the four-time major winner, who is preparing for the RBC Heritage in South Carolina.

"I mean, if you really care about your career and care about moving forward, you should be here, I think. Last week was 70 world ranking points for the winner, this week it's 74.

"And I get that there are different variables and families and stuff involved, but we all have the means to rent a very nice house in a gated community in Florida, and it's not a hardship for two weeks to come over and quarantine.

"I mean, it's fine. My caddie Harry came over and did it. He stayed in our guest house. The two weeks flew by.

"I honestly don't understand the guys complaining because there is a solution to it. You can come over here and do what needs to be done.

"It might seem a little harsh, but I don't get that mindset, especially if you care about your career and you want to advance."

Matt Every carded a blemish-free 65 to lead by one shot from fellow former champion Rory McIlroy after the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

American Every overcame high winds as one of the late starters to record seven birdies on a Bay Hill course he knows well, having triumphed at the tournament in 2014 before defending his title the following year.

His performance was even more impressive considering he missed the cut at the Honda Classic a week ago after an 85 on the Friday.

The 36-year-old edged clear at the top of the leaderboard with a three at his penultimate hole after McIlroy - winner in 2018 - had overcome a sluggish start to set the clubhouse target.

Starting on the back nine, world number one McIlroy found water as he bogeyed his second hole but managed to still be under par at the turn thanks to a pair of birdies.

McIlroy then produced some blistering golf on his way back in, including an eagle at the fourth where he overcame finding a fairway bunker off the tee with a stunning shot out of the sand.

"I made a couple of unforced errors starting off. I hit it in the water at 11 and actually made a good bogey in the end, and then missed a little one on 12," McIlroy told Sky Sports.

"I think with the start, then turning in under par with the birdie at 16 and 18, I had a bit of a pep in my step going to the first tee. I played some great golf after that.

"I got a bit of a momentum and kept it going until the end."

Talor Gooch and Scottie Scheffler sat tied on five under, a shot ahead of a six-man group that included Graeme McDowell, who was victorious at the Saudi International last month.

Patrick Reed posted a two-under 70 and Brooks Koepka signed for an even-par 72, while defending champion Francesco Molinari pulled out before starting his round due to a back injury.

Defending champion Francesco Molinari has been forced to pull out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational due to a back injury.

The Italian carded a spectacular final round of 64 to come from five shots back and win the tournament last year, finishing two clear of Matt Fitzpatrick.

However, Molinari will not be in action this week after withdrawing ahead of his opening round on Thursday - he had been due to tee off in the morning alongside 2018 Ryder Cup team-mates Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose.

The 37-year-old has not won a tournament on either the European Tour or PGA Tour since his triumph at Bay Hill 12 months ago, admitting ahead of his title defence this week that the season so far had not gone to plan.

"I'm a little bit behind where I was planning to be at this time," Molinari told the media. "The start of the season has not been as good as I hoped for, but it's only the start.

"There's been a few physical things and technical things, but I'm working through it.

"I think I've got some good planning for the next few weeks building up to Augusta and some good direction to work towards."

Lee Kyoung-hoon has taken Molinari's place in a 120-man field that also includes Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Patrick Reed.

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