Hello everyone, welcome to the first edition of The Slam in 2019. A very happy new year to you all.

Hands up who has already fallen foul and/or taken advantage of the newly-updated Rules of Golf? I haven’t played yet since the changes came in – it has only been four days – but I did sneak in 18 at my beloved Okehampton on New Year’s Eve and decided to adopt them anyway…

Big fan of leaving the flagstick in – especially when there’s this much real estate between your ball and the cup.

Anyway, what’s been going on in the golfing world since we last met?

Foot in mouth

Rory McIlroy has had an interesting couple of months – and he hasn’t even played.

First he said he wasn’t going to commit to the European Tour in 2019, which upset a lot of people, including Keith Pelley who flew to Ireland for – as they say in the tabloids – “showdown talks” with the four-time major champion, who decided he would, in fact, commit to the required number of tournaments to keep his card on this side of the Atlantic.

Now McIlroy is back in action in Hawaii at the Tournament of Champions and the American press pack couldn’t wait to get stuck into a story they’d previously had little influence on. And Rory didn’t let them down…

My life’s here. I have an American wife. I live in America. Honestly, I enjoy it here more. The way of life is easier. The weather. The convenience.

The ultimate goal is here. The European Tour is a stepping stone. That’s the truth. The European Tour is a stepping stone. That’s the way it is.

It’s tough. I still want to support the European Tour, and I talk about this loyalty thing with Europe. It’s not as though I’m just starting out and jumping ship.

I’ve done my time. I’ve done everything I feel like I need to do to say OK, I’m going to make my own decisions and do what I want.

My favourite bit is when he reiterates his point about the European Tour being a “stepping stone”. Like, did you get that boys? There’s your headline.

But that wasn’t enough, oh no…

It’s so one-sided. Look, you can talk all you want about these bigger events in Europe, but you can go to America and play for more money and more ranking points. I think as well with the world ranking points, everyone out here, all of their contracts with sponsors, it’s all about world ranking points. If players are getting paid more and earning more world ranking points, why would you play over there?

I want to play against the best players in the world. I get a buzz from that. I’d much rather go down the stretch against Justin Thomas or Dustin Johnson. I’m not putting anyone down in Europe, but the depths of fields and everything is just that bit better over here. It’s what everyone is striving for.

Of course it’s caused UPROAR! on this side of the world. How DARE he talk about the European Tour in this way? TAKE AWAY HIS RYDER CUP PLACE!

Hang on, I thought we hated Europe now and couldn’t wait to get out?

Whether you agree with McIlroy’s sentiment or not, we can’t moan at our favourite sports stars for being vacuous but then be unhappy when they speak their mind.

And, ultimately, McIlroy’s right, isn’t he? I reckon at one time or another I’ve asked every golf fan I know if they’d play on the European Tour or PGA Tour and the answer is overwhelmingly the latter.

Why? Money, prestige, convenience, weather – precisely the same reasons McIlroy gave – and you’d quite like an American wife.

OK, “I’ve done my time” was a poor way to put it, but we’re laying into a player who has won the Race to Dubai on three occasions and hosted a European Tour event for four years on the bounce. How many can say they’ve done that?

So why couldn’t McIlroy have just said that he loves the European Tour and what it’s given him but now it’s time to focus on the American circuit?

Because that isn’t who he is. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Frankie goes to Hollywood

Francesco Molinari

And look, it’s not just McIlroy who’s doing it. Everyone’s second favourite golfer, Francesco Molinari, is also ditching the European Tour. According to a report from the Associated Press:

Molinari says he may not play in Europe until the 19th-ranked Italian defends his Open title in July. The lure of the PGA Tour and changes made to the European Tour calendar will combine to leave the London-based golfer short of available dates to compete on his home circuit. Molinari is even struggling to commit to the British Masters in May, despite receiving an invitation from tournament host, close friend and Ryder Cup partner Tommy Fleetwood.

If the other half of Moliwood can’t get Molinari to play more golf over here, Keith Pelley sure as hell can’t.

The Slam continues on the next page, where Patrick Reed has revealed what he’ll serve at the Masters Champions Dinner and some big news regarding The Match…