Tuesday 17 September 2019

'We need to be careful' - Rory McIlroy says Major obsession is bad for the game

Perfectly in sync: Rory McIlroy walks with the fairways with singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake during a pro-am event ahead of the Omega European Masters in Switzerland yesterday. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images
Perfectly in sync: Rory McIlroy walks with the fairways with singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake during a pro-am event ahead of the Omega European Masters in Switzerland yesterday. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy is confident he'll end his Major drought "sooner or later" but fears Major mania could be damaging the game worldwide.

The Co Down man out-gunned world No 1 Brooks Koepka on Sunday to win the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup and a $15 million (€13.5m) bonus.

But after going another year without a Major win, he may lose out to the PGA champion Koepka in the vote for the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award despite out-performing him in almost every other statistical category.

Asked on the eve of the Omega European Masters if winning next year's Masters and catching Koepka at the top of the world rankings were his number-one goals next season, McIlroy said: "I'll just do what I did on Sunday. I beat him then so I'll just try to emulate that.

"I think a lot is made of the Majors. We play 25 tournaments a year, it's not as if the other 21 don't count. There are big tournaments and a lot to play for.

"The media like to run with the Major narrative and the players get into that as well. There is a perpetual cycle of Majors, Majors, Majors."

McIlroy last won a Major five years ago and fears the hype around the sport's biggest events is overshadowing the rest of the game.

"We need to be careful," warned McIlroy, who is joined at Crans-sur-Sierre by Pádraig Harrington, Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan.

"If we keep prolonging the Major narrative, it's not good for our game."

Read more here:

He added: "I just think as a whole, it's a slippery slope. You will have golf fans who only care for four weeks a year rather than the whole year.

"I want people to be interested in our game every week."

McIlroy has not given up on winning Majors, insisting, "sooner or later I'll win them again".

Condensed

But he's no fan of the new schedule, which condensed the four |Majors into a 101-day period his year and called on golf to imitate tennis and spread the Majors out.

He still has lots still to play for this year and closing the gap that Koepka enjoys at the top of the world rankings is high on his agenda.

"It's a goal to get closer, to keep playing well," he said. "I think I saw somewhere that there are more world ranking points on offer here than there has been for eight years.

"Wentworth is obviously big for world ranking points. There's a WGC coming up. There's still a lot to play for. That's my focus for the rest of the year, getting closer to that No 1 spot."

On the Challenge Tour, Gary Hurley, Paul McBride, Robin Dawson and Stephen Grant tee it up in the KPMG Trophy in Belgium today, as Stephanie Meadow plays the LPGA Tour's Cambia Portland Classic and Leona Maguire the Symetra Tour's Sioux Falls Great LIFE Challenge in South Dakota.

McIlroy's former Walker Cup partner Jonny Caldwell leads the Irish challenge in the Europro Tour's Prem Group Irish Masters at Tulfarris, three shots behind England's Adam Chapman after opening with a four-under 68.

At the men's Interprovincial Championship in Tullamore, Connacht beat holders Munster 6-5 and now face Leinster, who had an 8-3 win over Ulster on the opening day.

In the US Senior Women's Amateur, East Berkshire's Laura Webb lost by one hole to Australia's Sue Wooster in the quarter-finals at Cedar Rapids Country Club in Iowa.

European Masters,

Live, Sky Sports, 10.30am

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport