Remember how about a year ago Rory McIlroy was making noises about only playing twice in Europe this season, and in general planning a future playing schedule that would see him play way more on the PGA Tour than over here? Indeed, there was a suggestion that he might not play enough events in Europe in the season looming ahead to be eligible to play in the Ryder Cup match at Whistling Straits next year. That is unlikely to happen and in any case there was a feeling that Rory was really venting as a way of expressing his exasperation with some of the decisions made by Keith Pelley, chief executive officer of the European Tour.
In fact, as things have turned out, since the Open at Royal Portrush in July, McIlroy has played three times in Europe – at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the latter which finished a couple of Sundays ago. All well and good, then? Well, not exactly – and sometimes Pelley might privately contemplate how much the hassle is worth.
McIlroy finished 15 under par at the Dunhill, which got him into a tie for 26th. That tournament is played over three courses in Scotland – the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. In July, the Aberdeen Standard Investment Scottish Open had been contested over another Scottish links, at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick. There a 13-under-par score was only good enough to earn him a tie for 34th. After McIlroy had finished at St Andrews, the golf glove came off.
“I’m honestly sick of coming back over to the European Tour, shooting 15 under par and finishing 30th,” he proclaimed. “I don’t think the courses are set up hard enough There are no penalties for bad shots. It’s tough when you come back when it’s like that. [Strictly, of course, he meant precisely the opposite.] If the European Tour want to put forth a really good product, the golf courses and set-ups need to be tougher.”
He didn’t win a major this year (he hasn’t since 2014) but he did win the Players Championship and the FedEx Cup, the two biggest titles owned by the PGA Tour, and he said he felt that “was validation of that decision to play a few more times in the States”. And he is going to carry on doing just that.
“I don’t want to travel that much any more,” he added. “I’ve done it for 12 years now. I’m getting stick but I’m turning down millions of dollars to go to Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia because I want to do the right thing by playing the courses I want to play.” And, unstated but unmistakably the case, playing in the countries he wants to play in.
You can follow me on Twitter @robrtgreen and also read my other blog at f-factors.com – plus there’s more golf blogging from me in the 19th hole section on the Golf Today website