World’s No. 1-ranked golfer Lee Westwood and No. 7 Rory McIlroy both announced last month they’re skipping The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in May, the PGA Tour’s premier event — also dubbed the “fifth major.” Their manager Chubby Chandler spoke to CNN and backed Westwood and McIlroy’s decision, saying it didn’t fit in their schedules and dismissing the significance of the tournament for Europeans.
“I would think when it was played at the end of the March it was getting to be the fifth major,” Chandler told CNN. “Moving it to the middle of May has made it about the 10th most important tournament in the world…because it doesn’t have a place and it doesn’t fit into people’s schedules and the buildup to The Masters isn’t there now.
“I think that’s why Rory and Lee feel it’s not a priority for them to put on their CV. It’d be great if they won it, but they’d rather win a World Championship event or major or something of that ilk. That places it down to 9 or 10 (in importance). For Americans, it’s probably going to be the fifth, but we were brought up on World Golf Championships being more important and that’s their thinking. That’s the way they put their schedules out.
“Unfortunately they can’t play every week.”
When McIlroy revealed his decision via Twitter in January, it triggered speculation that Rory was giving the PGA Tour and Commissioner Tim Finchem the cold shoulder after ditching his membership. Team Rory quickly put out the fire with a clarification tweet.
Asked about how he’d defend his players’ decision to Finchem, Chandler said he hadn’t spoken to Finchem directly, but had been in contact with his office.
“We don’t have a case, we have a choice,” said Chandler. “It’s not my choice, it’s (Lee and Rory’s) choice and the TPC didn’t fit their schedules this year. It’s probably down to Mr. (George) O’Grady (European Tour Chief Executive) and Mr. Finchem to get their heads together on how to make the TPC a tournament people can’t afford to miss.”
I have to agree with Chubby. Westwood and McIlroy don’t have any obligation to play in America. Besides, it’s not like the top American players are playing in Europe’s marquee events. Although The Players will still boast a very strong field, it’s a shame two of the top-ten players in the world will be noticeably absent. Well, maybe not McIlroy since he never sees weekend play, anyway — as he pointed out himself via Twitter.
Here’s the video of Chubby’s interview with CNN: