McIlroy turns his back on Ryder Cup captaincy – for now

The Scoop

Why Rory McIlroy will NEVER captain Europe, a badly-timed break up, and why Tiger Woods turned down big money from the European Tour. Alex Perry explains

We’ll start with Rory McIlroy, who revealed ahead of this week’s DP World Tour Championship that he may not fulfil his requirements for European Tour membership in 2019. Here are his quotes on the matter in full:

I am starting my year off in the States and that will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess from there.

I guess my thing is that I want to play against the strongest fields week-in and week-out and for the most part of the season that is in America. If I want to continue to contend in the majors and to continue my journey back towards the top of the game, then that’s what I want to do.

To retain membership, players must play at least four European Tour events outside of the majors and WGCs and according to McIlroy’s website he is so far only committed to one, the Omega European Masters – presumably for sponsorship reasons rather than his desire to stock up on Toblerone.

Let’s also assume he’ll play the Irish Open – a quick glance at the PGA Tour schedule suggests there is nothing to stop him doing this and it’s two weeks before The Open at Portrush.

That means he needs to play just two more events in order to meet his European Tour membership requirement.

TWO!

And with the likes of the BMW PGA Championship, Dunhill Links, the Spanish, Italian and French Opens, as well as the three Final Series events – how can he not make it work?

Now whatever he decides to do, it’s obviously fine. McIlroy is self employed, a grown man, and obviously feels that constant trans-Atlantic travel is taking its toll on his game – particularly the majors, of which he hasn’t won one since 2014.

But what about the Ryder Cup? He added:

Right now that is all sort of up in the air, but if it were to be that I don’t fulfil my membership next year, it’s not a Ryder Cup year so it’s not the end of the world.

I am always going to want to play the Ryder Cup, so if that does happen so be it and I will try and make the Ryder Cup team the year after.

Now, we all know players must be a member of the European Tour to be eligible to play in the Ryder Cup – and McIlroy has said he will reassess in 2020 if it looks like it will affect his chances – but what you might not know is that there have been regulations in place since last year that say players cannot be a European Ryder Cup captain or vice-captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfil their minimum event obligation in any season.

So if McIlroy fails to maintain his European Tour membership requirements this year, he will NEVER be allowed to be a Ryder Cup captain or vice-captain in future.

Now, I didn’t know of this rule and I have no idea if McIlroy knows of it, but he sure as hell does now. (Because someone will have pointed it out to him, I mean, not because he watches The Slam.)

My main concern is why does McIlroy continue to put his size 9 Nike shoes right in his gob? I love how honest and open he is, I really do, but some things are better kept to himself.

Now all the golf world has spent the week talking about is why the European Tour can’t keep hold of its biggest stars, and giving our American friends another reason to stick the boot in.

Still, we’ve got the Ryder Cup.

No Match

McIlroy also had his say on The Match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and, like Justin Thomas, he says he probably won’t watch.

He also added that he was having lunch with Mickelson recently and Lefty slid a $20 bill across the table and told him he’d cover the PPV charge.

But that’s not the reason McIlroy won’t be tuning in:

Look, if they had done it 15 years ago it would have been great. But nowadays, it’s missed the mark a little bit.

Jordan Spieth, however, is excited:

I’m sure that myself and our friends will be watching it. There is certainly an interest from us, especially knowing the both of them. Having them mic’d up and knowing them personally it’ll be kind of extra special.

I know who I’m with.

Cold Foster

Lee Westwood

Another week, another high profile player-caddie split. This time it’s Lee Westwood, whose emotional win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge was with girlfriend Helen Storey on the bag.

Now it looks like Helen will be a more permanent fixture after it was confirmed that Westwood’s 10-year working relationship with Billy Foster has ended.

The reason, Foster told the Telegraph, is that Westwood is increasingly relying on his own expertise and instinct:

Lee wanted to work differently to everything we had ever done, which basically meant me just carrying the bag. I struggled to adapt to that situation as a caddie, and it created a bit of an uncomfortable atmosphere on the course.

Ultimately it was no good for Lee and not fair on me either. So unfortunately the partnership had run its course and we both knew that. Times change. It has been a great 10 years of my life with Lee and we had many special times and successes together.

I can only wish him good luck moving forward – although I do feel he could have waited more than a week before winning a million dollars!

Do you remember that story of the lad getting dumped a week before his girlfriend won the lottery? It’s a bit like that, isn’t it?

Tiger’s snub

Tiger Woods WITB 2018

And finally, it was revealed this week that Tiger Woods turned down his largest ever overseas appearance fee offer – £2.5 million – to play at the Saudi International.

The event, which has been added to the European Tour calendar for the 2019 season, has come with widespread condemnation. This is, after all, one of just a handful of countries that still carries out corporal punishment.

And, of course, the small matter of last month’s pre-meditated murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul.

So if Woods is avoiding the event for moral reasons, then credit where it’s due.

But the European Tour needs to have a long look at itself for chasing the money of nations like Saudi Arabia, when the likes of Wales and Northern Ireland don’t have a tour stop, and the British Masters needed an 11th-hour reprieve.

But they don’t care, do they? The players and officials will fly in, probably privately, be escorted to a five-star resort with maximum security and they’ll never see anything outside those walls. And they’ll get paid a ton of money for it.

It’s a worrying trend.

On a more light-hearted note, my colleague’s Mark Townsend and Steve Carroll were at Q School to see the most exciting week of the year go down. You can follow everything they did here.

More recommended reading

Previous article
Next article
Top