Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke at the 2010 Irish Open. Picture Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ieRory McIlroy has always prided himself on his “honesty” and saying what’s on his mind when he’s found himself criticised for past remarks or actions.

It happened when he dubbed the Ryder Cup “an exhibition” and when he suggested shortly before the 2010 Ryder Cup that any member of the European Tour would fancy their chances against an out of form Tiger Woods.

It was the same refrain when he told TV commentator Jay Townsend to “shut up” and lay off caddie JP Fitzerald, adding that the American ex-tour player was “a failed golfer” whose opinion meant nothing.

On Thursday McIlroy fired eight birdies in an eight under par 64 to lead the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters by one from Hunter Mahan and outscore ex-stablemate Lee Westwood by five shots. 

But he “responded irritatably” to questions about his decision to leave Chubby Chandler’s ISM for Horizon Sports last week, saying: “I’ve come here to talk about my 64.”

It would appear that the statement he issued seven days ago may be the last we hear on this issue for some time. Are we witnessing a change in McIlroy’s public persona? A more cautious and diplomatic Rory? It would appear so.

Darren Clarke certainly isn’t going to wade in on behalf of ISM and criticise protoge McIlroy for his decision to leave ISM. Having definitively shot down rumours that there was “absolutely no chance” that he might be the next player to leave ISM, the Open champion had no desire to take McIlroy to task for leaving his good friend Chandler. 

 Hey Darren, would you leave Chubby if the offer was good enough, say, 30 pieces of silver? ”no

 Does that imply you disagree with Rory’s decision.” It doesn’t matter, Rory is his own man and I respect his decision.

was that last response a shot at for his decision?” Absolutely not.

Pádraig Harrington, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter shared third place, three off the lead, after rounds of 67, with American Anthony Kim and China’s Li Chao carding 68s.

Westwood finished on 69, leaving him level with John Daly, Robert Karlsson, YE Yang and Retief Goosen, while Colin Montgomerie was one further adrift, along with South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.

The tournament is a a 30-man invitational event, not aligned with the main tours, offering the highest first prize in professional golf of $2m (€1.4m).