POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 21, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 01:48 a.m. HST, Jun 21, 2011
For all the comparisons being drawn between Tiger Woods and golf’s new poster player, Rory McIlroy, here’s one you’d hate to see actually be on the mark:
McIlroy being as much of a long shot as Woods to tee it up here in Hawaii anytime soon.
For years Woods has given the state a wide berth, not having deigned to put in a competitive appearance here since 2006 at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Poipu Bay. He hasn’t played one of the season-opening PGA Tour events here since 2005, despite victories in 1997 and 2000.
With Phil Mickelson not having teed it up here since 2005, never having played in the Sony Open in Hawaii and having skipped the Hyundai Tournament of Champions for 10 years, Hawaii’s tournaments could use the star power with which McIlroy has been anointed after his record U.S. Open mastery.
McIlroy has yet to play a pro round here and people around pro golf suggest a confluence of factors make it doubtful that will change anytime soon. Even Mark Rolfing, an NBC and Golf Channel commentator, said Monday on his way home from the U.S. Open, “I think the odds are 50-50 ... at best.”
Coming from Rolfing, the ever-optimistic, unofficial state ambassador to golf and host at Hyundai, that says a lot. Little of it immediately encouraging.
The problems are manifold. McIlroy, a native of Northern Ireland, is a member of the European Tour, not the PGA Tour, and, as such, is allowed 10 PGA Tour appearances a year. Once you figure in the four majors and three World Golf Championships, that doesn’t leave much of a shot at Hawaii. Especially when he plays Honda, Quail Hollow and Memorial.
The situation is further complicated by the two local events, Hyundai and Sony, being held in January. For one thing, few of the non-PGA Tour players want to expend any of their precious openings that early in the calendar, reducing their options later. For another, one of McIlroy’s major sponsors has been the Middle East-based Jumeirah Group, which says a lot about why he has started the past six Januarys in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, sometimes throwing in Qatar for good measure.
The hope is that McIlroy’s ascendant business possibilities will either prompt him to take another look at the benefits of PGA Tour membership or nudge the tour into granting him extra exemptions. With TV contract talks for 2013 and beyond looming and Woods no longer the commodity he was for the last go-round, it behooves the PGA Tour to get creative and have McIlroy more involved.
Rolfing is hoping to lobby the PGA Tour for an exemption for Hyundai. Since Hyundai is only open to players who have won a tournament, Rolfing’s argument is that McIlroy has already qualified and it should not count against the 10-tournament limit. “I think it is pretty logical,” Rolfing said.
Though McIlroy’s manager, Andrew “Chubby” Chandler told the Belfast Telegraph, “He may play a few more events, but I don’t think he will play 15 — that’s difficult.”
Said Rolfing, “I’m not giving up hope ... and I’m certainly (going to be) talking to Chubby.”
Otherwise, you’d have to say getting McIlroy here soon could rate as something of a fat chance.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.