With high-profile fines and suspensions kept behind closed doors, Rory McIlroy has asked for more transparency from the PGA Tour. And, writes Alex Perry, it's about time someone called it out
Hello. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Slam. Yes, I know I’m 24 hours late, but so is The Players Championship…
It’s been a strange week at HQ, hasn’t it? The first three days were largely unwatchable – literally, for large parts – while day four was much more normal with the added twist that no one really knew what round anyone was playing.
Before the storms came, though, Rory McIlroy was doing what Rory McIlroy does best. Speaking.
I always think the pre-tournament press conferences must be the most annoying aspect of any golfer’s week. (Oh boo hoo, they’re paid enough and so on.)
But it never really matters what you throw at McIlroy, he responds well. And questions can swing from one extreme to the other, whether it’s Tiger Woods, or the situation in Ukraine, or his thoughts on the TPC Sawgrass’s 17th. All answered carefully and thoughtfully.
But there was one question and answer that stuck out. Asked if he would give PGA Tour commissioner a “report card” for his time in office, McIlroy didn’t shy away from making his feelings clear.
“The business side of the Tour has everything to do with putting more money in players’ pockets – he’s done a fantastic job,” the 32-year-old said. “The domestic rights deal that the PGA Tour did a year or so ago was incredible.
“Overall Jay has done a wonderful job in terms of weathering the storm of the pandemic and making this Tour the best Tour in the world to play on.”
Here’s the “but”…
“The one thing the Tour in general could do better is transparency,” McIlroy explained, adding that the organisation can be a “closed shop”.
There have certainly been some high-profile examples of that in the not-too distant past.
In 2014, Dustin Johnson was out of action for six months due to what he described as “personal challenges”. It doesn’t take too much digging to find the real reason.
Fast forward to today and Phil Mickelson is currently on a hiatus from playing – he’s expected to return at Augusta having not played since the early season stops in Kapalua and Torrey Pines – after his heavily criticised involvement in the Saudi Golf League.
Is it a hiatus though? Or is he banned. Many suspect the latter.
And McIlroy added: “I’ve always felt that the bans or suspensions should all be announced. That should be more transparent, I’ve always said that. But that’s something I’m sure they’re working on and have constant dialogue in.”
McIlroy is, as is so often the case, right on the mark. How many other sports keep these things in-house? You can understand the PGA Tour’s reasons. They want to protect their – and the sport’s? – image. But the speculation and gossip is far more damaging.
When told of McIlroy’s comments, Monahan joked that “effective immediately, Rory McIlroy is suspended” before a no-but-seriously turn into “it’s a criticism that has been lobbied against the PGA Tour through the years”, and that they have always been “open to evolving”.
If you’re still “open to evolving” on things your critics have been firing at you for, in your words, “years”, you’re probably not that open to evolving.
Monahan, clearly uncomfortable, added: “If that’s something that a member of our board feels strongly about rest assured it’s a conversation we’ll have with our Player Advisory Council and ultimately our board. That’s the way the system works.”
It’s important McIlroy – a future commissioner, surely – keeps the PGA Tour chiefs on their toes. As long as he is representing the players, they’re in safe hands. And changes will happen.
In the meantime, Rory, concentrate on getting that Green Jacket.
How did the Players end up?
I can’t work out if it’s the novelty I enjoy, or if I genuinely want all tournaments to finish on a Monday, but it’s so much better than a Sunday.
It was an incredible few hours at TPC Sawgrass, with the lead changing hands countless times on the final day that saw both the third and fourth rounds being played.
In the end, it was Cam Smith who came out on top – largely thanks to 10 birdies, including this pure sauce at 17…
Just when you thought that was that, Smith punched out of the trees at 18 and found the drink. Then he did this…
Anirban Lahiri, the 54-hole leader, was unable to find one more birdie at 18 and the Australian picked up the biggest payout in golf history.
And there wasn’t a dry eye in Ponte Vedra Beach when he was mobbed by his mum and sister, who until last week hadn’t seen Smith for two and a half years due to Covid protocols in the US…
Don’t bet against him adding a major this year.
Casey’s brutal break
Paul Casey, meanwhile, is left wondering what might have been when his drive at 16 ended up in another player’s pitch mark…
“Man, I didn’t like seeing that again,” he said later at Nick Dougherty’s SkyCart.
If you’re wondering why Casey wasn’t allowed to take relief, allow our Rules of Golf expert Steve Carroll to explain.
Speaking of the rules, this was an interesting exchange between Viktor Hovland and Daniel Berger…
They’re arguing over where Berger should drop his ball after the American found the water at 16. Hovland later said he was “just trying to protect the field”. Understandable, when every finishing position at the Players is worth hundreds of thousands.
Earlier in the week…
The 17th gets an unfair rap, but there was plenty of entertainment to be had at Sawgrass’s famous one-shotter. (Mainly involving the best in the world dunking it in the drink.)
But there is no doubt about the highlight of the week. Shane Lowry, come on down…
No such weather issues in Thailand, though, where Nanna Koerstz Madsen won her first LPGA title.
That will feel like a huge weight off the Dane’s shoulders after that heartbreaking meltdown that cost her a maiden major at Carnoustie.
And in South Africa, Pablo Larrazabal won his sixth DP World Tour title at the My Golf Life Open after the Spaniard beat compatriot Adri Arnaus and Jordan Smith in a play-off.
Larrazabal’s winning span now stretches over 14 years. For context of his longevity, the runner-up for his first title was a certain C. Montgomerie.
Right, that’s enough from me. The sun’s out and, hopefully, so are your clubs. Play well.