Friday, April 24, 2009

McIlroy says No Thanks to PGA Tour

When a 19-year old young man with a world of game decides he’s going to turn professional, he’s confronted with a myriad of choices. The decisions he’s forced to make could quite possibly be responsible for the success or failure thereof that will follow. Is this a fair burden for a teenager to bear? Probably not. Hey kid, welcome to the real world of professional golf.

In the past week, the PGA Tour offered a special membership to Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy. To the surprise of many, he respectfully declined the offer. In this corner, the belief is that he showed wisdom and maturity beyond his years. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he had the counsel of Tubby Chandler, golf’s super agent in the European theater.

Even though a player such as Mark O’Meara, a close friend of Tiger Woods, has said that McIlroy’s development is ahead of Woods at that age, Rory is staying home. At this stage of his career, it’s a wise move. He should get used to the professional routine on more familiar turf. There is a lot to learn. He has to learn how to travel and what is an effective practice routine as opposed to what is a realistic one. He’s much better off doing this near his support group than trying to get along alone some 4-5,000 miles away from home.

A decade ago, a 19-year old was faced with similar decisions and he choice was to be a world player. On the surface, it appears that Sergio Garcia made the right decision. He’s won seven times on the PGA Tour and eight times on the European Tour with his resume filled in with four more wins on other tours. He’s amassed a fortune in excess of $30 million. Yet, there are those and at times Sergio is among them that feel he has underachieved in some areas.

Garcia’s biggest win was the 2008 Players Championship in a playoff with Paul Goydos. The first thing he said in his acceptance speech was to thank Woods for not being there. Following a much less than stellar Masters this year, Sergio proceeded to blame the course and the setup for his lackluster play. Someone in his entourage wrote an apology that Sergio delivered and if you think this apology to Augusta was heartfelt, then when was the last time you heard Garcia use the word “iconic” when describing a golf course—or an icon for that matter?

I know it’s unfair, but in this day a professional golfer’s resume is judged by the number of majors won and not the body of work.

There is a school of thought that Garcia’s problems stem from the fact that he tried to do too much too early. This led him away from the progression of experience that includes building a mental toughness that deals effectively with adversity. His physical game has developed tremendously. His mental game…maybe not so much. Unfortunately, it’s the latter that can be the difference between winning and losing a major. Just ask Kenny Perry.

This brings us back to the shaggy, curly-haired Irish kid. McIlroy will play in the WGC events and maybe a selected few events around the three majors held in the U.S., but he will be a European Tour member first and foremost until his physical and mental development reaches the point where he can handle it comfortably. Rest assured that he’ll be here and that he’ll be a great performer when he does. It just won’t be right now.

Bartender, I’d love to buy a pint for Mr. McIlroy, but I don’t want to go to jail either, so please pour him a rock shandy (an Irish concoction of lemonade and orange soda). Also, the usual for Senor Garcia, a small wheel of Spanish cheese and a bottle of Spanish red whine.

See you on the first tee,


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