SBD/November 10, 2010/Leagues

McIlroy Jeopardizing PGA Tour Future By Cutting Back In '11

McIlroy Would Be Allowed To Play In WGC Events Even If He Drops PGA Tour Card

PGA Tour Senior VP/Tournament Administration Andy Pazder said that PGA Tour rules stipulate that if Rory McIlroy drops his membership for '11, as expected, 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 WGC events, according to Steve Elling of CBSSPORTS.com. Other non-Tour members "in good standing ... can play in 12 PGA Tour events," the same number McIlroy indicated that he intends to play in '11. But Pazder said, "That would be erroneous. We are in the process of sending a note to Rory and his management. ... If he has a change of heart and still wants to play here (in 2012), he can." But Elling noted if McIlroy "formally drops his membership as planned, he's out of luck" for next year because he "must sit out one year, regardless." Pazder: "Even if he wins the Masters, he can't rejoin the tour next year." Lee Westwood, who also will forgo PGA Tour membership next season, "managed to slip through some cracks" in '10. Had he "not withdrawn from the PGA Championship because of an injury, he would have played in 12 PGA Tour-sanctioned events, two more than he should have been allowed to enter based on his maximum of 10." Pazder said that the Tour "decided a few years ago that in such situations, they would not prohibit a player from competing in a cross-sanctioned WGC event if he had reached 10 starts already" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/9).

A TROUBLING TREND: Ian Poulter became the latest top-ranked European player to waver on playing the PGA Tour when he indicated that the "increasing number of mandatory events on the European Tour could make it impossible to commit to also playing in the United States." Poulter, who is currently ranked 15th in the world, joined the PGA Tour in '04 as a "special temporary member," but he faces a "big decision after the European Tour opted in October to increase the number of mandatory events to retain Tour membership from 12 to 13." Poulter said of the U.S., "My family is well settled over there, but then you can't deny playing two tours is becoming increasingly difficult, especially with the European Tour number you have to play going up" (BBC.co.uk, 11/10). PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer is also considering joining McIlroy and Westwood in passing on PGA Tour membership, and ESPN.com's Jason Sobel wrote these players are "proving what many in the industry have been whispering for a long time." The PGA Tour "needs the players a lot more than the players need the PGA Tour." Sobel: "Why are PGA Tour executives likely experiencing a queasy feeling right now? Because these three players could set an example by which all superstars could live." He added, "The game is becoming more global with each passing week, meaning less and less do the top players feel the need to take up PGA Tour membership" (ESPN.com, 11/9).

CONTINENTAL DIVIDE: Golfer and PGA Tour Player Advisory Council member Joe Ogilvie defended European players staying on their home continent for the majority of their schedule, saying, "I think they need to do that because Europe is struggling." Ogilvie: "They've got great players, but from an economic standpoint, Europe is really struggling and they want to support their home tour." He added with Westwood currently the No. 1-ranked player in the world and Kaymer at No. 3, the "way the world ranking is set up if you play against the No. 1 player in the world more often, you are going to go up the world rankings." Ogilvie: "Guys can play against Lee -- assuming Lee is the No. 1 player in the world for longer than a few months, which it looks like he will be -- and they can jockey that system for a little bit. The world ranking has become such a big deal." Ogilvie did note the PGA Tour does need to "get the best players in the world and we need to continue widening our lead, because our tour is still the best tour in the world by far." He said, "That's better courses, better tournaments, better crowds, and the United States is still the No. 1 economy in the world, so they are going to have to play over here eventually" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 11/9).

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