Nov
10
2010
PGA Tour Waves Big, Scary Stick at McIlroy (Which Was Overlooked With Westwood)
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy trekking back to Europe

Rory McIlroy’s decision to drop his PGA Tour card might have repercussions to his 2011 playing privileges in the US, per reports by cbssports.com’s Steve Elling. When McIlroy broke the news to reporters, he noted that he’d be happy playing in 11 or 12 events (rather than the required 15 for Tour members; McIlroy played in 16 this season).

Not so fast. PGA Tour policy says McIlroy will face sanctions if he does go through with dropping his membership.

According to PGA Tour rules, if McIlroy drops his membership he will be limited to 10 appearances at sanctioned or co-sanctioned official U.S. events per season over the next five years, which includes the four majors and three official World Golf Championships events, said Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of tournament administration.

The difference between 11 or 12 and 10 isn’t so different. Interestingly enough, world’s No. 1 Lee Westwood, who advised McIlroy with  his decision, withdrew his PGA Tour membership after 2005, but the Tour never enforced it on him. Westwood withdrew from the PGA Championship due to injury, but had he played, he would have competed in 12 PGA Tour sanctioned events, two more than the maximum allowed. He sidestepped this draconian policy because the tour wasn’t paying attention.

“We did not closely monitor his play in PGA Tour events,” Pazder admitted to Elling.

Apparently there’s also some flexibility in the tour’s policy. Pazdar told Elling that a few years ago, “They would not prohibit a player from competing in a cross-sanctioned WGC event if he had reached 10 starts already.”

“We were not going to sit there and say, ‘You should not have been able to play Memphis, so now you can’t play here,’ ” Pazder said of the WGC start Westwood made in midsummer at Firestone.

So, let me get this straight — if Rory has played 10 events before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, then he’ll still get to play at Firestone, which would be his 11th event. I’m a little loopy on cold medicine this morning, so perhaps I’m reading it incorrectly. But if it is what I think it is, then Rory can still play in 11 events as he tentatively planned. From my understanding of his position on giving up his tour membership, he won’t be so broken up if he can’t add The Barclays and Deutsche Bank to his schedule. I mean, he said that he didn’t want to play in the FedEx Cup this year, anyway.

Pazder emphasized that the Tour isn’t being “vindictive,” according to Elling. After all, these are the rules (that they haven’t done a very good job of enforcing until they realized they could be losing one of the game’s biggest draws). I’m thinking this is closer to something called “leverage” or “Mean Girl-ish”  to gently persuade McIlroy to change his mind.

(Photo by Kyle Auclair/insidetheropes.com)