Happy New Year from Rory

by Robert Green

January 07, 2019

Happy New Year, Keith! Not!! I have no clue what new year's resolutions were made by Keith Pelley, boss of the European Tour, but his mind probably underwent several revolutions when he saw the newspapers yesterday.

Rory McIlroy, still the major box-office attraction in European golf notwithstanding that he hasn't won a major championship for four years, is in Hawaii right now for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the opening event on the 2019 PGA Tour. And he's pretty much going to be staying there; not Hawaii, that is, but the United States.

“The ultimate goal is here,” he told Golf Digest. “The European Tour is a stepping stone. I still want to support the European Tour... but I've done my time. I've done everything I feel I need to do to say ‘I'm going to make my own decisions and do what I want'. My life's here. I have an American wife. I live in America. I enjoy it here more.”

To make sure there could be no doubt as to his intentions – which presently are that he won't play in Europe until July – he also said: “You can talk about these bigger events in Europe [i.e the Rolex Series] but you can go to America and play for more money and ranking points. Why would you play over there?” Ouch!!!

The story that McIlroy would hardly be playing in Europe this season broke last November. In explaining his thinking, he made a point of emphasizing that this is not a Ryder Cup year so there would be no issues there. It was pointed out to him that there might be issues down the road: failure to fulfil the requirements for Tour membership in any one season would make that golfer ineligible ever to be Ryder Cup captain. McIlroy responded by saying the captaincy for him would be about 20 years away. In other words, he was kicking this into the long grass.

Anyone with any knowledge of the political background of the history of the Ryder Cup would not blame him for this. In 1981, for example, Seve Ballesteros was not given a wild card because of his row with the Tour over his demands to be paid appearance money. He was still getting paid to play in 1983 (and thereafter) but that year – and thereafter – he was playing in the Ryder Cup. I think we can all probably agree that it was a good thing he was.

McIlroy will know full well that the current rules-makers at the European Tour, Keith Pelley & Co, will not be in office when he might be considered for the captaincy. He will know the rules have been changed before and if need be they will again, even if that requires an amendment to the current regulation that exempts from it anyone who has, say, won at least four majors and whose initials are RM. You might call it the Northern Ireland back-stop...

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