McIlroy was unconcerned by the remarks.
"It's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening". I made good swings on 17 and on 18.
Alongside McIlroy on five under is Tiger Woods, the golfing great finally back in contention for a major title, much to the delight of the Northern Irishman. I hit the shots when I needed to. "It wasn't that bad but it was just damp enough and cold enough that I just couldn't do my gameplan of being aggressive and hitting driver a lot".
"I have to focus on the next two days first but, obviously, I'd love to be able to hand the Claret Jug back on the first tee at Portrush next year".
And McIlroy did not find it hard to take the positives from it all. He intends to keep the same approach today.
A look of astonishment crossed his face when he dropped a shot at the fifth, and it was little wonder as the ball went round the lip but refused to drop.
McIlroy's footwear attracted attention with the soles of his shoes bearing the word "nasty" - a play on "Car-nasty", a nickname for the notoriously hard Carnoustie course. The wind's going to be up, and there's a lot of guys that feel like they have a chance.
American Kevin Kisner took the first step towards joining his current housemates in Scotland.
Saturday's third round saw 41 players card under-par rounds but 24 hours later it appeared to be a case of hanging on. McIlroy's 69 which was matched by Spain's Jon Rahm and the English pair of Danny Willett and Matthew Southgate.
That left him -3 for the week and six back at a stage but birdies at nine and 11 soon fired him back into the mix before a stunning eagle at the par five 14th shot him into the thick of the challenge.
"After the fifth hole", where he dropped his only shot of the day, "I didn't look like making bogey until 16 when I missed the green".
"This week one of my main thoughts has been just to let it go".
"The round could certainly have been a little better", he added.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth heads into the second round at one over after a poor finish triggered by a wild second shot at the 15th which led to a double bogey.
He played the opening nine holes in 34 strokes, sinking birdies at the fourth and sixth. "I just ran out of holes".