Rory McIlroy has joined Lee Westwood and snubbed the $9.5 million Players Championship at Sawgrass.
The world No 7 broke the news that he was skipping the self-styled Fifth Major during a Twitter exchange with the English world No 1. And he immediately felt the need to confirm that he does not have a vendetta against the PGA Tour or Commissioner Tim Finchem.
“For everyone who is interested, the reason I’m not playing TPC this year is because I’ve never thought the golf course has set up that well for me. Hence 2 missed cuts in 2 years. I have no sort of vendetta against Tim Finchem or the PGA Tour, I love playing in the US and have always found the people very welcoming. I’m sure one day I’ll join the PGA tour again, but right now I want to put all my efforts into Europe and the race to Dubai. Hope this clears a few things up!”
After two missed cuts from two starts at the Florida venue, McIlroy was asked by Westwood if he had made up his mind about his annual trip to Jacksonville for “your 36 holes at the Players”.
And McIlroy quickly replied: “Yes, I have. I’ve decided no holes at Sawgrass is better than my usual 36. Do you want to go and have a few holes somewhere?”
McIlroy gave up his PGA Tour card at the end of last season to concentrate on getting more wins on the European Tour.
He hinted in Dubai last November that the Players might disappear from his schedule because he simply doesn’t like the course.
McIlroy said: “I find it very awkward off the tee. Some guys love Sawgrass and some guys don’t like it so much.”
Westwood announced last week that he would not be playing at Sawgrass from May 12-15 because he didn’t want to use up a precious PGA Tour invite which limits him to just three starts outside the majors and World Golf Championships.
He also sent a stark message to the US Tour, pointing out if Americans rarely play in Europe’s BMW PGA at Wentworth, which should they make a fuss about him skipping their flagship event.
“I am not a member of the PGA Tour so I don’t need to play the event,” Westwood said. “After the two opening World Golf Championships I would bracket our PGA Championship in May as just as important as it offers exemption for anybody in the world’s top 50 to play.
“I don’t see many of them (Americans) wanting to take up that offer. So you can’t really please everyone, can you?”
The pair joked on Twitter that they might spend the weekend of the Players practising at Finca Cortesin in southern Spain, the venue for the following week’s Volvo World Match Play Championship.
Their manager, Chubby Chandler, revealed on his Twitter feed that they had caused him a headache with their antics:
“Been putting American fires all afternoon, trying to explain they were joking about having a 4 ball on the weekend of TPC !!”
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in San Diego that he was disappointed but not overly troubled about the absence Westwood and McIlroy from Sawgrass.
Speaking ahead of the Farmer’s Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where world No 3 Tiger Woods will return to action after his winter break, Finchem said: “Well any time a top player or any player who is eligible for The Players doesn’t play, I’m disappointed. I’d like to see everybody play. But that doesn’t always happen, and things happen, and players get injured.
“In this case, players make decisions based on their schedule that they’re focused on for whatever set of reasons. I really never try to second guess a players decision as it relates to his schedule. I’m just disappointed that they’re not playing. Particularly Lee, because he played so beautifully last year as he was marching toward finally achieving the number one ranking.
“But I’m not troubled by it. I’m disappointed that they’re not playing, but I’m not troubled by it. I feel we’ll have an excellent field again. It’s a premier tournament on a great golf course with a great pedigree of champions, and the highest purse of the year. We’ll have a fantastic tournament.
“My only message to those guys is you’re always welcome, and we’d love to have you back.”