In a press conference ahead of the Memorial at Muirfield Village, Rory McIlroy wondered if the PGA Tour's practice of grouping its stars together in the same groups on Thursday and Friday might be a mistake, saying that he thought all the added attention could have an adverse effect on players' performance.
At the Players Championship this year, McIlroy played in a group with Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler's group at TPC Sawgrass was followed by huge crowds angling to get close to some of the most famous names in the game. Mickelson, McIlroy and Fowler all missed the cut.
“I mean I don’t mind playing with the top guys in the first two days, but the objective is to get those top guys in contention on Sunday..." McIlroy said. "But I get why they’re doing it, and I get why it creates a bit of a buzz at the start of the week. But I would rather see Rickie and Phil and Tiger play on a Sunday rather than on a Thursday and two of them going home.”
The early star-powered groupings make good business sense for the PGA Tour, since they help to build excitement around a tournament as well as encourage fans to purchase live streaming packages so they won't miss a minute of the weekday action. But are those perks worth turning up the heat on the Tour's most popular players before they've even set foot on the course?
This week at Memorial, McIlroy is set to tee off alongside Dustin Johnson and Jason Day.