Tuesday 21 November 2017

McIlroy comes under fire after withdrawal casts shadow over Turkish event

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy is just one of a number of top Tour stars who opted out of the €6.33m Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya due to security fears, but because of his profile and star quality, the Northern Irishman was an obvious target for criticism yesterday.

The tournament, the first of the European Tour's Final Series on the Race To Dubai, was hit by a spate of withdrawals, including McIlroy, the Open champion Henrik Stenson, US Ryder Cup hero Patrick Reed and Shane Lowry.

The publicity attending the absence of the big names has caused problems for the sponsors, the tournament organisers, the Turkish tourist industry and the European Tour.

Inevitably and understandably, the hosts had to try and redress the balance, and Turkish Golf Federation president Ahmet Agaoglu was the man to do it.

He said: "For those who worry about such things there is no safe place in the world. I do not see pulling out of events as the right approach to take.

"I'm a little bit surprised and disappointed because I learnt Rory pulled out from the media. Tiger (Woods) sent me an email an hour before he makes the press release. We have to respect a little bit the sponsors because they are investing huge money.

"Antalya is one of the largest tourist destinations in the world and not a single person died or was injured by any terrorist attack. This is the safest city in Turkey and also the safest hotel and golf course in the world."

McIlroy and the other players who declined to turn up took a different view, particularly after a bomb exploded in a car close to the Antalya Trade and Industry Chamber last Tuesday week.

Injuries were reported to around a dozen people, and the explosion caused European Tour officials to consider all their options regarding the Turkish Airlines Open.

They reviewed the relevant information and decided to go ahead.

Clearly some players, including McIlroy, took a different view.

Others, such as Pádraig Harrington and Lee Westwood, had no qualms about playing at the Regnum Carya Golf Resort & Spa. Harrington has form in this regard.

Back in the 1980s and '90s, when the Troubles were a feature of Northern Irish life, Harrington regularly travelled across the border for events when many golfers in the Republic gave it a miss.

He also made it his business to go to the Olympics in Brazil despite the Zika controversy, and posed the question about Antalya: "Is it more dangerous here than anywhere else? I'm not really sure."

Westwood said: "The world we live in, anything can happen anywhere and Turkey is no different to anywhere else.

"I'm a little bit disappointed (by the withdrawals).

"Obviously the most high-profile was probably Rory's, and Rory brings an awful lot to a golf tournament.

"It's a shame he's not here this week, but I guess he didn't feel the way I feel about the place and the security of it all."

Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell and Seamus Power are the two Irish competitors in the PGA Tour's Shriners Hospital for Sick Children Open in Las Vegas.

Olympian Power plays his third tournament as a fully-fledged PGA Tour member, and he played impressively for three rounds at the Sanderson Farms Championship last weekend before slumping to 77 in his final round.

The Waterford native will hope to build on that experience this week as he seeks to take full advantage of his graduation to the main tour from the Web.Com Tour.

Turkish Airlines Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 9.30am

Shriners Hospital Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.30pm

Irish Independent

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