When Rory McIlroy finishes his career, he will be judged on how many major championships are in his trophy cabinet, not by how he served the PGA Tour at board level.
At 34 years of age, grey hairs are starting to show on what was once a thick, bushy mop of curly hair signalling the realisation that perhaps McIlroy is now on borrowed time in terms of being at the peak of his powers with the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland (all in their 20s) more than capable of sharing the podium with him.
This week’s DP World Tour Championship will bring the curtain down on what McIlroy described as a ‘7/10’ season where he won twice and picked up his fifth Race to Dubai crown, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
In truth, the Holywood man dipped in and out of form and arguably played his best golf at the Ryder Cup in Rome where he top scored for Europe. There is no doubt that he appeared a jaded figure at the start of the year, culminating in a disastrous showing at Augusta National as his latest bid for the career grand slam went up in smoke.
McIlroy’s stance on LIV was reduced from ardent to sheepish throughout the year even before news of the apparent ‘merger’ between the PGA Tour/ DP World Tour and PIF broke during the summer.
McIlroy admitted to feeling like a ‘sacrificial lamb’ over news of the merger and his resignation as player director on the PGA Tour’s policy board is an indictment of where golf is going at the moment and he clearly feels he cannot be part of the ongoing negotiations.
There are things happening that he just can’t get behind or vote for and his resignation is confirmation that the merger will happen.
Will he still lash out at LIV and stand up for the PGA Tour throughout next year? Yes. But he won’t have to deal with any external problems.
Rory can’t give any more to this executive role. He has lost the fight against LIV and the PIF.
There is a sense that McIlroy likes to be in control which is why the TGL will serve as a necessary distraction, it’s an environment where he holds the power and it seems like he lost that on the PGA Tour policy board.
For golfing reasons, McIlroy’s resignation can be seen as a good thing.
The four-time major winner will enter his tenth season since lifting the 2014 PGA Championship and it is time that he put aside his commitments and focused on adding to his major tally.
There is no doubt that in 2022 his role as spokesperson for the PGA Tour in the face of LIV gave him a bounce and he became more consistent in the majors than he had ever been – without winning. But on the flip side, the last eighteen months have taken a toll on him and the workload he took on was underestimated.
He would have been the one listening to phone calls and queries from his colleagues, leading the players meetings and of course, he was always front and centre at press conferences fielding questions about LIV while other players took a back seat.
His golf game and mental health had suffered in the early part of the year but it is time now to be selfish.
When he lifted his fourth and hopefully not final major in Valhalla almost a decade ago, McIlroy was the best in the world. Now, he is just one of the best players who arguably on his day is the top dog.
The majority of the players he is competing against for top honours are in their 20s with fresh talent falling off the conveyor belt on the regular and at a pace much faster than when he rose to the top.
Surely McIlroy glanced across the European team room at the Ryder Cup at Ludvig Aberg and thought ‘here comes another threat.’
He has left major championships behind him over the last two seasons like the 2022 Open Championship and 2023 US Open and he might feel a quieter life off the course can allow him to find that extra percentage on it to finally break through again.