When Rory McIlroy spoke to the press in Dubai earlier this week, not for the first time, some golf fans didn’t like what came out of his mouth.
In revealing his plans for next year, the 29-year-old said he might not play the four events required to fulfill his European Tour membership, saying it ‘wouldn’t be the end of the world’.
A quick scroll through social media, though, would have you believing otherwise.
Comments ranged from how the move would alienate his European fans to disdain at turning his back on the tour that provided him with the platform to become the player that he has.
But McIlroy owes the European Tour nothing.
For the last decade, his star power has been used by the tour to be the poster-boy for events that he has teed it up in, while his commitment to starting his year with the Desert Swing has undoubtedly helped elevate interest in those events.
In 2015, meanwhile, he stepped in to save the Irish Open when it was on its knees and, after four seasons of sponsorship by his own foundation, it is now one of the European Tour’s most lucrative events.
If anything, McIlroy’s comments highlight the gulf between the PGA Tour and European Tour and the latter’s growing inability to provide a tour for its leading players to rival that of what is on offer in the States.
An example: six of next year’s eight European Tour Rolex Series events have a prize fund of $7 million, less than regular season PGA Tour events like the Mayakoba Golf Classic, Valero Texas Open and AT&T Byron Nelson. Of the non-Rolex Series events, only the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship has a prize fund of more than $3.5 million.
McIlroy’s decision is also a bold one that shows he still has that burning desire to get back to his best, which he feels will happen if he commits fully to the PGA Tour.
He shouldn’t feel guilt-tripped into some form of loyalty. Other top Europeans look after their own playing interests and the fact that McIlroy has been the tour’s poster-boy for the last decade should be irrelevant.
McIlroy could have given away very little about his plans for 2019 but, once again, he was up front and honest and, for that, he should be commended – not lambasted.
Contrast that with Justin Rose who, after winning the Turkish Airlines Open, fumbled his way through an answer about why he wasn’t going to compete in the DP World Tour Championship.
If other US-based Europeans join McIlroy in swerving the European Tour in 2019, you can guarantee the same level of outrage won’t be directed at them and, when you consider what the Northern Irishman has contributed to the European Tour and European golf, that’s pretty baffling.