Rory jumps free to concentrate on golf

Ivan Morris

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Ivan Morris

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Rory McIlroy has quit the PGA Board! Two years ago, I wrote that he should never have joined it in the first place. Here’s hoping for great success on the field of play for a ‘freed-up’ Rory in 2024. It would be a crime on behalf of the Golf Gods to deny somebody so talented of at least three more majors to bring him (appropriately, in my view) on equal major terms with Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer, two other ‘greats’ who did not win as many majors as they should have.

What follows are extracts of what I wrote in 2021: “Rory McIlroy has created PGA Tour history by becoming the first non-American born elected chairman of the PGA Tour’s Players Advisory Committee. I’m sure the strategic alliance between the PGA Tour and European Tour had something to do with peaking Rory’s interest in the chairmanship role and it may turn out to be useful for the ET to have somebody on the inside, so to speak, but what will it do for Rory?

“Whilst there is no doubting McIlroy’s popularity amongst his fellow players surely he should not be taking on these ‘distractions’ when he has far more important ‘fish to fry’: winning the career grand slam and returning to the No. 1 position in the World Golf Rankings, for example? Being involved in committee work cannot possibly help him to achieve those landmark goals, that have a limited time constraint in which to fulfil them.

“Getting to know more about the Tour’s business is all very well but how can making decisions regarding COVID precautions, for example, help him to play better? At this stage of his career anything that gets in the way of winning major championships should be sidestepped. He will end up having to listen to the sometimes daft ideas, complaints and whinges of his closest rivals as well as those hanging on to their playing privileges by a thread. By everybody having his ear and he being their mouthpiece, Rory will lose his aura; something that is irreplaceable.

“Having a brain that is ‘too active’ and wanting to ‘fix the world’ is the golfer’s curse. Is there ever the slightest chance of Tiger thinking that way? Rory would be far better off practicing his wedge play and putting. Even in the amateur game at club level, it’s very rare to see a scratch golfer on a committee or council. They simply haven’t the time to spare.

“I’m a big Rory fan but this will not help in terms of more titles and future majors wins. It’s beginning to look as if Rory may have lost the ‘all-consuming desire’, laser focus, tunnel vision and killer instinct to succeed on the field of play? An inability of late to produce his best over 72-holes might well be down to allowing himself to be distracted by matters that really should not be concerning him? For someone to be doing this when still at his playing peak is an own goal”.

This writer is never 100% correct when speculating, who is? But, that effort wasn’t bad! Now, I’m speculating that Rory will win a major (or two) in 2024 PROVIDED he doesn’t try too hard, which is easier said than done. With his new found freedom, Rory McIlroy said this in Dubai this week: “The professional game has never been stronger or healthier from a financial standpoint, there’s never been a better time to be a professional golfer. But that’s five per cent of what golf is. It’s the golf that amateurs play; it’s the golf that my dad plays. It’s not just about us. It’s about the overall health of the game. We are all talking about this investment coming into the top level of golf, but I think it also needs to go into the R&A and the USGA and for them to increase participation.”

It IS good that Rory is aware of, and respects the amateur game, which I’d say is 99% of the game but only gets 1% of the money and attention. Long may that not last!

I wonder when the sponsors of professional golf will realise that at least the first two rounds of almost every tournament these days is unwatchable. When they do – a major re-think about putting so much money into pro golfers’ pockets will be inevitable. LIV’s silly money has not only created unsustainable expectations but it has helped to highlight how over-paid the golfers on the PGA Tour actually are, even it is about a third of what the LIV guys earn.

In recent days, the PGA Tour Board including those great pals, Rory and Patrick Cantlay (a man Rory regards with about the same enthusiasm as he might a four-day-old salad according to a fellow Irish Golfer writer) have spent many hours discussing money and where they might get it? The bottom line is always the same: securing bigger purses for themselves.

A major policy re-think by sponsors and investors on putting so much money into pro golfers’ pockets is overdue. Media outlets are more stretched than ever when trying to meet the remuneration demands of professional sports organisations for the TV rights to show their games. As a niche sport golf is bound to suffer.

In 2024, approximately ten PGA Tour tournaments are slated to have purses comparable (and in some cases bigger) than any of the majors despite having smaller fields, no-cuts, and less challenging and interesting venues. Only one of those events – the Players Championship – will feature a full 156-man field and only four will have a 36-hole cut. The very things that they boast makes the PGA Tour better than LIV.

In sharp contrast, the four majors not only stage superior and more interesting tournaments with bigger and better fields, the revenues earned are mostly re-invested back into ‘the whole game’.

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