Rory McIlroy has hit back at his critics, declaring that he does not care if scheduling decision disappoints anyone so long as he wins more majors. Paul McGinley, for one, must have felt his ears burning while his countryman spelt out his defiance.
McIlroy shot a 69 in his opening round of the DP World Tour Championship, his first sub-70 round in almost two months. But he knew that the questions would not be concerning the birdies and bogeys of his three-under afternoon.
In his Sky Sports column, McGinley, the former Ryder Cup captain who is a close friend of McIlroy’s and attended his wedding last year, wrote that he regards the fact the golfer is considering not honouring his membership next year is “extraordinary” and does not “understand it”.
On Tuesday McIlroy revealed he is not sure whether he can commit to the four-event membership minimum as he concentrates on the majors, even though under the Tour regulations this would cost him the chance ever to be Ryder Cup captain.
McIlroy was asked whether this rule – brought in last year to stop players from just retaining their membership during Ryder Cup years – will have affected his decision. “No, it's 20 years away,” he said. When pressed again, he repeated: “It’s 20 years away.
On McGinley’s column he said: “Look, everyone looks out for themselves. McGinley is on The European Tour board. He's involved and he has to protect what he has, and I get it. I'm trying to do what's best for me to help get back to the best player in the world and try to win majors again.”
McIlroy was the asked if the fall-out would be worth not adding just two more events to his schedule: “Geez, I'd cause all the stirs in the world if I go back to winning majors.”
The 29-year-old, who has promoted the Irish open for the last four years during which time has not added to his collection of four majors, is so far only committed to play the European Masters in Switzerland – because of a sponsor commitment – and has said he has intimated he is more likely to play the Scottish Open than the Irish Open. That has obviously created a controversy in his homeland and the comments of McGinley – who is next year’s promoter of the Irish Open - will only add to this.
“It's very disappointing and it is obviously a blow for the European Tour,” McGinley wrote, "I've been racking my brains wondering how that can be. Obviously Rory sees it in other ways and has got his own rationale for that, although I'm finding it hard to understand.
"Of the 12 players that represented Europe in the Ryder Cup this year, Rory is the only one who is going to do that and the others have all signed up to play the minimum of four events outside of the majors and WGCs.
"The FedEx Cup finishes in August next year, so you've got all of September, October, November and December where the PGA Tour is played in Malaysia, Korea and various other places.
"Is Rory going to play in those rather than play in Dubai, where he has had unbelievable success and offers the exact same prize money as those events? Or is he just not going to play at all over the last four months?
"We've already reduced the number of events players have to play on the European Tour from five down to four, just to make it easy for the guys, like Rory, who are playing a worldwide schedule. It is right at the very minimum at the moment and the European Tour don't feel that four is a huge task to meet.
Meanwhile, there was a golf tournament going on which Francesco Molinari strengthened his grip on the Race To Dubai title for player who tops the money list. The Italian shot a four-under 68 to stand two off pace pace set by England’s Jordan Smith and Spaniard Adrian Otaegui.
Molinari has a lead of more than £1m in the Order of Merit and could only be denied if Tommy Fleetwood were to win and he finished outside the top five. Fleetwood shot a 69.