One of the most common refrains from defenders of big-name pros skipping events in recent years has been that everyone in professional golf is an independent contractor. And while no one argues that fact, it’s uncommon to hear the pros themselves speak publicly in such blunt terms.
However, that’s why so many inside and outside of the golf media are fond of Rory McIlroy. The 29-year-old four-time major champion is abnormally candid in his meetings with the press, and a recent admission — that he’s considering not fulfilling his European Tour requirements for membership in 2019 — has set off a wave of criticism.
“For the most part of the season, (the best fields are) in America,” McIlroy said earlier this week at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. “Right now, that is all sort of up in the air, but if it were to be that I don’t fulfill 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.”
McIlroy’s comments came as a “disappointment” to former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, who wrote in a column for Sky Sports, “It’s quite extraordinary that Rory’s not going to play just two more events to fulfill his European Tour membership next season. It’s very disappointing and it is obviously a blow for the European Tour.”
On Thursday, following an opening round 3-under par 69, McIlroy again opened up about his plans for next year, letting everyone know full-well who he is catering to in 2019.
“Look, everyone has to look out for themselves,” McIlroy told reporters, according to GolfChannel.com’s Will Gray. “And next year, I’m looking out for me.
“McGinley is on the European Tour board. He’s involved and he has to protect what he has, and I get it. Everyone has to do what’s best for them, and for me next year, 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 reiterated that he’s only considering not playing the required four events; it’s not set in stone, he said. As for the provision that would prohibit him from being a Ryder Cup captain in the future should he give up his European Tour status, McIlroy again said that he was worried about 2019, not something that’s “20 years away.”
Taking stock of the headlines he caused, McIlroy closed the topic with an astute observation considering he hasn’t won a major championship since 2014.
“Geez, I’d cause all the stirs in the world if I go back to winning majors,” he said.