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Why Rory's European Tour rant should be applauded

 

Showmen: Rory McIlroy and his dad Gerry kept the crowds
entertained at Carnoustie
Showmen: Rory McIlroy and his dad Gerry kept the crowds entertained at Carnoustie

By Jack Rathborn

Rory McIlroy created waves with his admission that he has grown "sick" of playing on the European Tour, yet beneath the shocking headlines should be an element of gratitude for his passionate views.

The four-time major winner is the face of European golf and, as such, his stinging criticism should be taken seriously, even if, as the Holywood man would later admit, there were flaws to his argument.

"I'm sort of honestly sick of coming back over to the European Tour and shooting 15 under par and finishing 30th," McIlroy remarked after finishing tied 26th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday. "I don't think the courses are set up hard enough. There are no penalties for bad shots. It's not a good test."

Those words were curiously absent after McIlroy blazed to victory at the Canadian Open with a winning score of 22-under, coincidentally the same score posted by Victor Perez to win at St Andrews on Sunday.

In fact, it has been 15 tournaments since 15-under has been good enough to win a regular PGA Tour tournament. Moreover the last eight winning scores on the PGA Tour have been: -17, -18, -21, -18, -25, -16, -22, -16.

McIlroy has since somewhat walked back his comments, insisting they "came from the right place", which was wise, considering the overwhelming enjoyment felt from most of the players and fans who walked Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and St Andrews last week in the unique pro-am format.

Perez hailed the interaction experienced over the week, with celebrities such as Justin Timberlake and Bill Murray picking the brains of the world's finest players on shot selection and strategy. Yes, the courses were largely benign but to pursue an Open-like set-up, which would have inevitably tormented the amateurs, would not have been right either.

In fact, it appeared throughout the week that McIlroy was thoroughly enjoying himself alongside his father Gerry, who together thrilled the crowds with their infectious chemistry and eventually finished within a shot of winning the team competition run parallel to the professionals, won by Tommy Fleetwood and Ogden Phipps.

There was even a bounce in McIlroy's step as he clasped one of his many cups of coffee throughout a damp afternoon at Kingsbarns on Friday, scribbling his signature for many young fans who flocked to catch a glimpse of their idol.

Even those who did not win were left beaming, such as Matt Wallace, who finished tied 15th on 17-under, but proclaimed, "Sundays at the Old Course are the best".

Even at the BMW Championship at Wentworth a week before, there was no sign of McIlroy's irritation, with many jokes shared alongside his fellow professionals. He even pranked Chinese player Haotong Li on the driving range by kicking a ball across his path at the top of his backswing.

McIlroy later added greater depth to his criticism, frankly revealing he had grown tired of the commitment to long-haul flights and crossing multiple time zones, which is understandable with his life now firmly rooted on the other side of the Atlantic.

The 30-year-old owes nothing to the European Tour, having already repaid it for providing the launchpad he received as a youngster with more than a decade of excellence.

The specific nature of McIlroy's comments may initially provoke the ire of the Tour, yet the key now should be to show a willingness to appease him - and others who are passionate enough about the game to publicly vent their frustrations with constructive criticism.

A wider look at an adjustment to course set-up is not an outrageous suggestion either, given the game itself shows little sign of a willingness to scale back advancements in technology from manufacturers.

And with Team Europe at a crucial moment as they experience a changing of the guard with veteran champions playing out their final years, keeping McIlroy engaged on both sides of the Atlantic will be key to future Ryder Cup success.

McIlroy may have divided opinion, but when European golf's biggest star stops opining, that's when the Tour will really have a problem.

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