Team McIlroy refutes $2m Australian Open fee story

McIlroy tweeted a link to the latest US edition of Golf World recently. Other stories he’s not so happy about.Rory McIlroy today gave Paul McGinley yet another vote of confidence and called for the Dubliner to be given the task of taking leading Europe against Tom Watson’s USA in Gleneagles in 2014.

After also using his Twitter account to confirm “for the record” that he believes Darren Clarke should get “a go” in 2016 and then revealing how he’d just had lunch with Jack Nicklaus, his management company issued a statement to shoot down a story claiming he’d doubled an agreed appearance fee to play in the Australian Open.

Reports from Australia were somewhat contradictory with the Herald Sun summarising an Australian Golf Digest report as follows:

“Tournament promoters believed they had an “arrangement” with the Northern Irishman’s management for the 23-year-old to play the Australian Open in December. But once the final putt was holed at Kiawah Island, the asking price for the new world No. 1 had escalated dramatically. His appearance fee was about $1 million prior to the US PGA, upon winning a second, but major McIlroy’s asking price was twice that amount.”

If there was an “arrangement”, why would that change? Either way, it lead to “Rory asks for $2m appearance fee” stories that Padraig Harrington used as a way of stressing the importance of the world No 1’s commitment to playing in next year’s Irish Open at Carton House:

“You’ve got Rory McIlroy playing already. I’m sure if you read some of the articles this week, you know how much it costs to get Rory to play an event. He’s playing in the Irish Open for free because he loves to play in the Irish Open. Already the event is on a winner.”

McIlroy and/or his handlers at Horizon Sports Management are clearly unhappy and have gone to the trouble of issuing a 292 word joint statement “from the Emirates Australian Open and Rory McIlroy.”

In recent weeks, reports in the Australian and international media have suggested Northern Ireland’s World Number 1 Rory McIlroy had an agreement to play at this year’s Emirates Australian Open, but refused to follow through on this commitment because event organisers refused to pay an increase in appearance costs as a result of his tournament victories in 2012. Both the report of any pre-existing agreement and requests for increased appearance fees are totally inaccurate.

“I can confirm there was no agreement in place with Rory McIlroy or his management at any point for Rory to play in this year’s Open,” Golf Australia CEO Stephen Pitt said. “In addition to not having any agreement in place, at no stage were Golf Australia or tournament organisers advised by Rory’s management that his appearance costs had increased. This simply isn’t true,” Pitt said.

World Sport Group Chief Operating Officer Andrew Georgiou said “We have a very good relationship with Rory and his management team and Rory has played in a number of our events. At no stage had Rory or his management committed to play in Australia this year so any commentary about appearance fees is totally irrelevant and clearly inaccurate.”

Rory McIlroy’s manager Conor Ridge confirmed: “We would like to thank Golf Australia and World Sports Group for clarifying that last weeks reports were totally inaccurate and without foundation. Both Rory and Horizon Sports Management value our reputation for professionalism and integrity. Hence, when such inaccuracies are reported in the media we have an obligation to set the record straight”.

He concluded, “It has been 5 years since Rory last played in Australia, but he is very much looking forward to returning down there to play again in the near future.”

This is the second time this year that Horizon Sports Management has seen fit to issue a media statement on McIlroy’s behalf.

Last September, McIlroy (?) penned an “Open Letter” in response to a Daily Mail story about his “identity” and denied he had made up his mind to represent Team GB in the 2016 Olympic Games having been quoted as saying “the fact is, I’ve always felt more British than Irish.”

Keeping regular lines of communication open is always a good idea but one suspects that the media department at Horizon is going to be kept very busy for the next few years if they have to issue a statement on every spurious story published about their most valuable client.

McIlroy might do well to follow the example of Padraig Harrington or even Tiger Woods and write a regular diary on his website that would reduce the number of media queries facing his management group. ie his recent house buying activities in Florida.

Given his profile, he is never going to escape 24/7 scrutiny, especially when he fans the flames of interest in his off course life with a stream of tweets, not to mention the WhoSay and Facebook snippets.

At least Horizon are not denying that McIlroy picks up the occasional fee.