Sponsors of the DP World Tour Championship Dubai, the final event of the European Tour season, must have heaved a sigh of relief when it was announced on Wednesday that Rory McIlroy will be allowed to participate in the tournament.
McIlroy is comfortably leading the Race to Dubai – €363,195 over the second-placed Danny Willett – and there never was any suggestion of the world No 1 not qualifying for the season-ending championship, which is scheduled for November 19-22 at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
However, as luck would have it, the Northern Irishman smashed his ankle while playing football with friends, and could not participate in several events during his injury layoff. That included the Scottish Open, the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, all three events counting towards the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
As things stand, McIlroy has played nine tournaments so far, and has agreed to play three more before the DP World Tour Championship.
That will take his tally to 12, which is one short of the mandatory requirement of 13 tournaments to qualify for the $8 million prize money tournament in Dubai, and also be eligible for a share of the Bonus Pool.
The European Tour is granting a special permission for McIlroy, and it makes complete sense for all stakeholders involved, none more than the fans who deserve to witness the best players in action.
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It is good for the sponsors and organisers, as the presence of someone like McIlroy immediately elevates the status and gravitas of any tournament. And it makes sense for the television partners because very few players can attract eyeballs like the Northern Irishman.
I thought it was a plain and simple case, but the European Tour made it a complicated one with Chief Executive Keith Pelley saying he needed two weeks to reach the decision after consultation with various doctors and physiotherapists.
The announcement, in trying to justify that McIlroy will not be able to play more than three events on their schedule from now until November, then quoted Dr Roger Hawkes, the Tour’s chief of medical staff, as saying he needs to play a reduced schedule and avoid back-to-back events so that he does not risk permanent disability. Which all sounds reasonable, except for the fact that McIlroy is playing three events in the next four weeks on the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup.
The Tour has made the right decision, but they should take care that McIlroy’s case is not an exception, but rather sets a precedence.
The Tournament Players Committee (TPC) need to find a formula which fairly treats any player who has had a good start to the season, but gets sidelined later in the year with injuries and is unable to reach the mandatory number. If he has made enough money to be inside the top-60, he should be given a place in the DPWTC.
While the Tour and the tournaments need someone like McIlroy, for most other players, it is the other way round and there shouldn’t be one rule for one and another for everyone else.
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