Rory McIlroy ‘sick’ of European Tour tests being too easy

Rory McIlroy lines up a putt with dad Gerry on the ninth hole in the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty
Rory McIlroy lines up a putt with dad Gerry on the ninth hole in the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty
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Rory McIlroy has criticised how European Tour courses are set up after feeling the tests were far too easy in both the Aberdeen Standard Invesments Scottish Open and Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this season.

The world No 2 said he was “sick” of finding that events on the circuit were not penalising bad shots and has called for tests to be toughened up for the tour to deliver a “really good product” for both members and sponsors.

McIlroy was speaking after having to settle for a share of 26th spot in the £4 million Alfred Dunhill Links Championship despite posting a 15-under-par total in the pro-am event at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, having ended up joint-34th on 13-under in a low-scoring Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club earlier in the year.

“I’m honestly sick of coming back over to the European Tour and shooting 15-under par and finishing 30th,” said the four-time major winner after signing off with six straight birdies in a closing 67 on the Old Course. “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.”

Asked if he’d be airing his views to tour bosses, he added: “I hope so. It happened at the Scottish Open, as well, at The Renaissance. It’s not a good test. I think if the European Tour want to put forth a really good product, the golf courses and set ups need to be tougher.”

McIlroy’s remarks were delivered after he’d joined forces with his dad, Gerry, to card an 11-under-par 61 in the final round in the 19th edition of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. That gave them a 39-under-par total, matching the clubhouse target set by Tommy Fleetwood and his amateur partner, Ogden Phipps, but it was an agonising end for ‘Team McIlroy’ as they were pipped for top spot by virtue of Fleetwood having the better score among the professionals.

After Rory had almost holed his tee shot at the short eighth, the McIlroys needed an eagle-2 at the ninth - their last hole after starting on the back nine - to win it and Gerry, who was playing in the event as a 60th birthday present from his son, shaved the hole with a putt from 70 feet, with Rory dropping to his knees as it slid past.

“My dad, who was getting three shots every day, played great all week,” he said. “After Friday, I pretty much knew what we were playing for was the team event. I didn’t get off to a fast enough start to get myself into the individual, and gave it our all over the weekend.”

Commenting on his dad’s valiant attempt to win it for them, he added: “I should have moved my marker as it hit my marker and sort of went right. We gave it a really good run. I could have maybe found a few extra shots in there. But it’s been a great week.”

McIlroy, who is heading home to Florida for a break before travelling to Japan for the Zozo Championship then moving on to China for the HSBC Champions, will end his 2019 campaign in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November.

“It’s been a great year,” he said. “I’ve won big events (the Players’ Championship and the Tour Championship in lifting the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour) and I’ve played well and I’ve consistently played well. If I just keep continuing to do that, I’ll be in a good spot.”

His early schedule for 2020 will be determined by where he spends Christmas, but he is set to play most of his golf in the opening few months in the States, even though he received some stick for that this year before eventually taking out his European Tour membership in May.

“I’ll definitely do the same again,” he insisted. “I don’t want to travel that much anymore. I’ve done it for 12 years and now I want to have these easy flights and not have to go across eight or nine times all the time, to get acclimatised and all that.

“I’m happy to do what I’ve done this year and winning the FedEx Cup was validation of that decision to a play a few more in the States. I’m getting stick, but I’m turning down millions of dollars to go to Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia because I want to do the right thing by playing on the courses I want to play at. I don’t think I should get stick for that because I feel like I’m doing the right thing, you know.”

On what proved a bit of a flst final day, Perez closed with a 70 to finish with a 22-under-par 266 total, winning by a shot from Englishman Matthew Southgate. It had been advantage Southgate until a two-shot swing at the par-5 14th, with Perez following a birdie there with four pars to close as he secured his maiden European Tour win.

“It was an amazing day but very stressful,” admitted the 27-year-old Dundee-based player afterwards. “I didn’t get much sleep last night and wasn’t really hungry either. It was just a battle out there with Matt. Hats off to him. He gave me a hell of a fight out there and I felt like it could have gone either way. I was fortunate it was my time today.

“Up until the turn, it was pretty open. I felt like anybody from the groups ahead could have make a run. Thankfully, they didn’t and it ended up being a one-to-one battle with Matt going into the last four or five five holes. The switch was really the birdie on 14, I felt like I came back in the game and I held strong for the last four.

“Obviously there’s nothing like a win. The confidence that you get from getting it done, it’s so difficult at this level to win. Being my first year, I’m obviously delighted.”