The Tournament Professionals don’t do New Year Resolutions, they “re-evaluate their focus for the coming year.” This normally means changing their swing coach, mind guru, tournament diary or something which will enhance their performance and get them closer to their goals. Now imagine having your newly forged resolutions being scrutinised by the world’s press. This is exactly the position I believe Rory McIlroy finds himself in at present.
If you missed it, last week Rory laid out his plans and more specifically his playing schedule for 2019. Now being a Tournament Professional with four Majors under his belt, currently ranked 8th in the world rankings and being eligible to play anywhere in the world because your talent enhances any field, his unveiling of playing commitments is one of great interest to the golfing fraternity.
He has hinted at relinquishing his European Tour Membership and concentrating his efforts Stateside because the events have stronger fields, bigger purses not to mention the travel being easier; him now living in Florida with his new wife has probably had an impact on the decision. Although I suspect he has had a good look at his priorities which is to win the Masters, this will give him the career Grand Slam. So far playing all around the world prior to the Masters has not worked, so staying in the States, being settled cannot really come as a surprise.
Not far down this imaginary list would be, for him, to win the Open Championship which is being held at Royal Portrush only an hour and fifteen minutes from his home club Holywood. A home boy win would be brilliant for the Championship, Rory and golf in general.
When put this way it all makes sense really, doesn’t it? Why all the fuss then? Well it really is down to the way Rory has declared his intentions, against the void of interesting comments coming out of the mouths of the pros these days. These PR companies have a lot to answer for. The natural tribal instincts of the European Tour kicked in when Rory called the European Tour a “stepping stone” to the US PGA Tour - this would be viewed as a betrayal of the highest order. One of their players is defecting to the other side (of the pond) which will weaken the European Tour’s status and wounding for the Tour’s Marketing Department who sell the big names to the big sponsors for big money.
Look at all the top names in European golf; Rose, Stenson, Poulter, Rahm, Casey and McIlroy have had homes in Florida for years now. McIlroy also has hosted the Irish Open for the last four years and in doing so has put the event firmly on the map subsequently enabling the Irish Open to become a Rolex Event. One of the top six events in the Tour’s schedule.
But there lies the problem, all six Rolex events come with a one million euro first prize, (a stunning amount of money). But, and it’s a massive BUT, every tournament in the States, which Rory will play in, comes with a higher prize fund, bigger purse for the winner, more world ranking points which leads to more sponsorship endorsements which means more money.
He has every right to play wherever he chooses, we want him to win as many Majors as possible if this is the way for him to do it, then good luck and have at them!
If the European Tour can’t financially compete, and it is easier to get onto the European Tour than the PGA Tour (Brookes Koepka graduated from Europe to the US) then sometimes the truth hurts, but it is the truth nonetheless. People shouldn’t be persecuted for telling the truth.
Remember though, we might be a little poorer than them, but we still can kick their backsides every two years!