Truth and Rumors: The Tour Strikes Back at Rory, Phil Snubs Bob Hope

Truth and Rumors: The Tour Strikes Back at Rory, Phil Snubs Bob Hope

Tour Roars back at RoryWhen young European upstart Rory McIlroy announced his intention to drop his PGA Tour card on Tuesday, the Tour had a difficult choice to make. Either it could be understanding and try to (at least outwardly) embrace the desire of talents like McIlroy and Martin Kaymer to play closer to home more often, or it could take some action against the increase in players abandoning ship. As's Steve Elling describes, the Tour went with the second option.

Rory McIlroy's decision to quit after one year as a member of the PGA Tour will come with a few strings attached.
If not some barbed wire.
The 21-year-old, who has already cracked the top 10 in the world rankings and won as a rookie this year on the U.S. tour, surprised fans and followers on Monday when he announced he was dropping his PGA Tour card after one season because, in part, he was homesick and over-extended.
According to PGA Tour rules, if McIlroy drops his membership he will be limited to 10 appearances at sanctioned or co-sanctioned official U.S. events per season over the next five years, which includes the four majors and three official World Golf Championships events, said Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour's senior vice president of tournament administration.
Other non-members in good standing, for lack of a better term, can play in 12 PGA Tour events. McIlroy on Monday told reporters in the U.K. that he would cut back on his U.S. schedule after dropping his membership in 2011, but was apparently unaware that quitting carried certain restrictions.
"I will play 11 or 12 there next year and I will be happy with that," McIlroy said.
Not exactly.
"That would be erroneous," Pazder said. "We are in the process of sending a note to Rory and his management."

On the surface, this isn't that big of a deal–McIlroy had planned to play 11 or 12 tournaments, instead he'll play 10–but there's a little more to it than that:

World No. 1 Lee Westwood managed to slip through some cracks in 2010, and he's managed by the same company, ISM.
Westwood played in 11 PGA Tour events even though he dropped his U.S. membership after 2008 and is still within the five-year window. Had Westwood not withdrawn from the PGA Championship because of an injury, he would have played in 12 PGA Tour-sanctioned events, two more than he should have been allowed to enter based on his maximum of 10.
Pazder said the tour decided a few years ago that in such situations, they would not prohibit a player from competing in a cross-sanctioned WGC event if he had reached 10 starts already.
"We were not going to sit there and say, 'You should not have been able to play Memphis, so now you can't play here,'" Pazder said of the WGC start Westwood made in midsummer at Firestone.
So, how did Westwood dodge the regs? "We did not closely monitor his play in PGA Tour events," Pazder admitted.

The PGA Tour has already been called out on its double standards once this season (with the Jim Furyk alarm clock debacle), but that's not what I see as the Tour's main motivation in this case. Rather than playing favorites, the Tour is coming off like a spurned lover, lashing out at the Euros who are starting to take their relationship with golf's biggest cash cow for granted.
I can appreciate that the PGA Tour wants to show that it's not going to be bullied around by young, foreign players, but can't it think of a way that makes it look less small and petulant than enforcing a rule that doesn't really help anybody? Bob Hope left unful-PhiledSpeaking of PGA Tour players who aren't interested in playing actual PGA Tour events, Phil Mickelson announced his first tournament of the 2011 season, and, as the AP's Doug Ferguson reports, it's not exactly around the corner.

Phil Mickelson plans to start the 2011 in the desert, as he has done so often in his career.
Just not the California desert.
Mickelson, who only recently began to expand his global horizons, said he is planning to make the Abu Dhabi Championship his first tournament of the new year. It will be held the same week as the Bob Hope Classic…
This figures to be the second straight year that the Bob Hope Classic gets more attention for who's not there.
A year ago, the PGA Tour granted nine conflicting releases to players to compete in Abu Dhabi. Tournament officials at the Hope were not thrilled, although they overlooked the fact that six of those players were European and all nine were European Tour members. What caused such consternation is one release went to Anthony Kim, who went to high school in the Palm Springs area.
Mickelson is a two-time champion at the Bob Hope Classic, although he has lost interest in recent years when the tournament started moving away from its traditional rotation of golf courses.

It's hard to blame Phil for wanting to take his talents out on the road–as Ferguson points out, Lefty is hugely popular overseas–but the timing of this announcement couldn't have been worse for the PGA Tour, which is has been fighting the perception that it's losing its stranglehold over the best fields in the world. Unfortunately, it might be an uphill battle, because that perception is increasingly accurate. Dubious MerrittThe golf blogs are buzzing about one of the weirder stories of the year, involving 25-year-old rookie Troy Merritt. According to ESPN's Bob Harig, Merritt has the opportunity to pull off a miraculous feat this week: Earn $1 million and lose his Tour card.

Troy Merritt could win more money this week than he has all year on the PGA Tour and still not have a full-time job in 2011.
If that seems a bit complicated, well, it's because of the two distinct competitions in play this week for the PGA Tour rookie at the Children's Miracle Network Classic.
Merritt, 25, finds himself in the precarious position of being No. 121 on the PGA Tour money list. He needs to remain among the top 125 upon the conclusion of this week's event at Walt Disney World to remain fully exempt next year.
But he also sits atop the Kodak Challenge standings, a year-long event that takes the best cumulative score on 18 of the 30 holes used.
Merritt leads by one stroke over Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley. The catch is, it's a winner-take-all format. Fowler decided to go for the prize despite having played the past two weeks in Malaysia and China. Baddeley is skipping his country's Australian Masters to go after the cash.
Merritt, meanwhile, could hold his one-stroke lead in the competition but still miss out on his tour card, given the right–or wrong–circumstances.

If you're not familiar with the Kodak Challenge, you can read more about it here. Obviously, the best case scenario for Merritt is that he plays well enough this week to keep his Tour card, and he manages to hold off the competition for the Kodak. But if that doesn't happen, at least it seems like Merritt is focused on the right goal–he knows that keeping his card is the far more important accomplishment. Winning a cool million would be nice (especially at 25), but a few decent years on the pro circuit can make that look like chump change pretty quickly.