Rory McIlroy explains his frustrations with easy course setups on European Tour
The best player on the planet wants the toughest setups
After shooting 15-under 273 and finishing T26 in the Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour over the weekend (but first in the team division with his father), Rory McIlroy took on the easy course setups by the Euros.
"I'm sort of honestly sick of coming back over to The European Tour and shooting 15 under par and finishing 30th," said McIlroy. "I don't think the courses are set up hard enough. There's no penalties for bad shots. It's tough when you come back when it's like that. I don't feel like good golf is regarded as well as it could be."
When he was asked if he would voice those concerns to the decision-makers in Europe, McIlroy didn't backpedal at all.
"I hope so," he said. "It happened at The Scottish Open, as well, Renaissance, I finished 13, 14 under and finished 30th again. It's not a good test. I think if the European Tour want to put forth a really good product, the golf courses and setups need to be tougher."
On Monday, he apologized for the way he critiqued the European Tour ... but not that he did it.
"I understand voicing my concerns about golf course setups in Europe to the media, at a pro-am event on benign links courses, wasn't the right place to do it or the right people to talk to about it," he wrote.
"I was venting yesterday, but I can assure you it came from the right place. Strategy, course management and shot-making are important aspects of tournament golf that are being slowly taken out of the game at the top level, not just in Europe but worldwide.
"I would personally like to see tougher setups in Europe because it will produce better, more complete young players in the future and that can only be a good thing for the game and our Ryder Cup chances going forward."
There's a lot going on here, but the crux of it for me is this: Strategy, course management and shot-making are important aspects of tournament golf that are being slowly taken out of the game at the top level, not just in Europe but worldwide.
That is a true statement, and it's unfortunate both for fans and the best players in the world like Rory. For fans, the most exciting shot in golf is a dart from 220 yards or longer. For the best players in the world, that's where they can gain the biggest advantage. What Rory is saying, while self-serving, is also correct (and also the right way forward).
When you have easy setups to simple pins, it neuters the 10 best guys in the world. It forces them into putting contests, which is like forcing the best soccer players in the world into shootouts.
Fast and firm is the best determinant of the best players because it disproportionately rewards great shots whereas slow and soft and easy rewards great shots only slightly more than average ones. Fast and firm, in other words, separates the grown men and the elite tee-to-green guys from the pretenders in any given week.
I have no idea if Rory should have popped off about this following the Dunhill Links (Europe's answer to the Pebble Beach Pro-Am), but I do know that he's correct about his assessment, not just for the European Tour -- where the last 14 events have been won by double digits under par -- but for all tours, including the one McIlroy primarily plays on.
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