by Jeff Skinner
The PGA Tour was dealt another blow by the Europeans this week when Rory McIlroy joined Lee Westwood in saying he will not be taking up membership on The PGA Tour in 2011 and will be concentrating on his European Tour membership. McIlroy is one of the best young golfers in the world and one of the few golfers that fans will pay to see play golf. The PGA Tour is in a precarious position and the more top golfers that choose to spend less time in the United States means more trouble for Tim Finchem and his tour.
Even with Tiger Woods’ fall from grace he is still the biggest draw in golf. There are millions of fans that go to a tournament to see Tiger and only Tiger. Phil Mickelson is the next biggest draw and he and Tiger are really the only two that can carry an event all by themselves. But it is important for all the tours to have as many as the other top names in their tournaments. It sells tickets and gets sponsors to pony up all that cash for the huge purses the pros play for. Fewer big names translates into less revenue for the tour and with the television contracts coming up for renewal next season the PGA Tour can’t be happy about this.
Granted, the PGA Tour is the Big Dog of tours. No tour pays like the PGA Tour with the average winner’s share over a million bucks. Right now 87 PGA Tour members have earned over a million this season, not a bad deal if you can get it. On the European Tour there are only 32 players that have earned over a million dollars. Usually players will follow the big bucks but that’s not the case for Westwood and McIlroy.
With golf truly blossoming into a worldwide game, endorsements come from all corners of the globe. Just take a peek at any professional’s golf attire and you’ll see a half dozen sponsors logos. Players no longer need to play in the United States to live a lucrative lifestyle. The global dollars follow them now; they don’t need to follow the dollars.
Rory was about as honest as you can be about his reasons for shunning life on The PGA Tour. There was no “spinning” his reasons, he was homesick. “I found myself in America last year, especially in the FedEx Cup play-off series, just not wanting to be there…I started switching on the Golf Channel and watching the Omega European Masters in Switzerland and thinking to myself I would rather be there…If you’re not playing well in the States it can be a lonely place. But if you’re not playing well on the European Tour you still have plenty of mates to hang out with. Holly also has another two years at university and we have two dogs, a nice house and I love my life back in Ireland. I don’t ever want to give that up.”
McIlroy is wise beyond his young, twenty-one years and he is right to put his quality of life before the almighty dollar, or euro in this case. Good for Rory and Lee and anyone else that can make a choice like this. It’s great for them but Tim Finchem and his team may have to rethink their rules for membership if they want to keep those top Europeans here in the states.