McIlroy's decision shows just how polarised golf has become
Rory McIlroy caused something of a stir when he told the media at the DP World Tour Championship that he might play as few as two regular events on next year’s European Tour.
It was basically a statement about whether he would play in $7-8 million events at home in Europe or in America and for that he will get no criticism from me because the former World No. 1 has more than earned the right to choose where and when he wants to play.
Professional golf is becoming an increasingly polarised game and at around the same time that McIlroy was planning his route to his next major title, three younger players were contemplating a much less lucrative life on the mini tours after rules infractions had, at least in part, cost them the chance of earning a tour card at the annual European Tour Qualifying School.
There is a very small margin between success and failure in professional golf and nowhere is that better illustrated than at Q School where dreams are made but where one loose shot or a single mishap can end a career. Sometimes before it starts.
Q School has been described as the School of Hard Knocks and it certainly was this year for recent English amateur international Gian-Marco Petrozzi whose hopes of reaching the Final Stage were extinguished when he was penalised two shots under the current Rule-13-2 for improving his line of play on the final hole of his Second Stage campaign at Las Colinas.
It seemed more than a little harsh to me because all he had done was to rake over his footprints after walking through a bunker on his way back from measuring his approach to the green but rules are rules and there was no complaint from the player himself.
Cruel School is another name for the annual Q School in which more than 1,000 players annually fork out £1,750 in the slim hope that at the end of the process they might be among the 25 players and those tied for 25th place who earn a card for the following year’s tour.
Tom Murray has been on the big tour before and he must have harboured high hopes of getting there again just a few days after missing out on a tour card by just 604 points – the equivalent of one shot over the season – at the Challenge Tour’s season-ending Ras Al Khaimah Grand Final.
The 28-year-old Englishman was also in good position after opening with a 66 and a 70 at Q School but that was before he was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard following his third round. Murray had scored a 70 and signed for 70 but because a couple of individual hole scores were incorrect that was that. Again there were no complaints. Merely a magnanimous acceptance that he had been in the wrong.
The Golfing Gods can be vicious at times, which is something Northern Ireland’s Cormac Sharvin also found to his cost at Q School when he was handed a two-shot penalty while in contention during the final round.
The 26-year-old Walker Cup player’s mistake was inadvertently to tee up his ball and inch or two ahead of the tee markers on his seventh hole of the day and it was to prove hugely costly because he went on to post a 69, which ultimately saw him miss out on a tour card by a single shot.
Sharvin’s reaction to his misfortune was every bit as impressive as that of Petrozzi and Murray which is why next season I will be watching with interest as they resume their quest to find a place at the top table of professional golf.
I hope they make it and I also hope that at the other end of the spectrum McIlroy reverses his decision and plays a bit more in Europe than he suggested in Dubai because without him and the other big names the Tour is a much less entertaining place.