Never one to bite his tongue, Rory McIlroy pulled no punches about the tests the European Tour are laying out (after playing in a pro-am)
In among all the gushing at the Dunhill Links Rory McIlroy was asked whether he would be back with his dad, who got to play with the World No.2 for a 60th birthday present, after father and son claimed second place in the team event: “I’m not sure. If he wants to, then I will, but I don’t have any real ambition to play again. I’m happy enough with what we’ve done. But yeah, look, we’ll see. If that’s what he wants, I’m sure I can make it happen.”
The standard answer to this one is generally along the lines of “we’ve had such a special week, where else can you play with your dad at the Home of Golf and peg it up with (insert footballer/actor/unheard of businessman)?”
Then came the massive kick in the proverbials for Keith Pelley and co with some more thoughts, to the assembled media rather than for the Sky Sports cameras, on his time spent in Europe.
“I’m honestly sick of coming back over to the European Tour and shooting 15-under par and finishing 30th. I don’t think the courses are set up hard enough. There’s no penalties for bad shots. It’s tough when you come back when it’s like that. I don’t feel like good golf is regarded as well as it could be.”
The good news is that McIlroy eventually finished in a tie for 26th, the bad news is that he’s picked the worst week on the calendar to bring up the severity of the course set-up.
The Dunhill Links is played at a time of year where you will more likely catch the weather, the course’s main defence, at its most benign and the pins are generally tucked away in the middle of every green or somewhere that the ball can easily feed down to.
The reason for all this is that half the field are a collection of amateurs who are either famous or extraordinarily wealthy to be able to pay for the privilege.
The winning score is a bun fight around 20-under while the team event is double that. We know all this because it happens every year. On the downside we like to moan about having to watch a cluster of celebs topping it around, on the upside we get to have a look at three of the world’s greatest courses.
When asked if he would air his concerns McIlroy didn’t hold back, adding more fuel to his argument that by concentrating pretty much all of his efforts on the PGA Tour it will be good for his game.
“I hope so. It happened at the Scottish Open, as well, Renaissance, I finished 13-, 14-under and finished 30th again (For the record it was -13 and T34). It’s not a good test. I think if the European Tour want to put forth a really good product, the golf courses and set-ups need to be tougher.”
Maybe he was niggled that he was pipped to the team event by Tommy Fleetwood outscoring him, 64-67, over the Old Course or he was having a little dig at the tour for whatever reason.
You might well say that he makes a good point, on the whole you would have to agree that the bulk of the PGA Tour’s big offerings do make for more of a test and so it is good for your game, but then this is also all dependent on where your schedule takes you.
And it’s not as if McIlroy hasn’t taken advantage of some low-scoring weeks, and his incredible skills, to add to his impressive CV – in 2019 his three victories on the PGA Tour add up to a cumulative 56 under par.
Come Monday morning there was an apology/explanation of sorts on his Instagram where he explained that it wasn’t the right time to say anything but that he was ‘venting but I can assure you it came from the right place’.
Then, thankfully, he reiterated what everyone else is thinking: “Strategy, course management and shotmaking are important aspects of tournament golf that are being slowly taken out of the game at the top level, not just in Europe but worldwide. I would personally like to see tougher set-ups in Europe because it will produce better, more complete young players in the future and that can only be a good thing for the game and our Ryder Cup chances going forward.”