McIlroy says proper penalties should apply for slow play
Northern Ireland player will tee it up at Wentworth in the BMW PGA championship
Rory McIlroy in the BMW PGA championship Pro-Am at Wentworth Golf Club, England. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy has called on his sport to follow the lead of tennis by implementing proper penalties for those players who divert attention towards clocks rather than shots after the glacial pace of play at the Solheim Cup last weekend reverberated way beyond Gleneagles.
Europe’s most high-profile golfer, back on home soil for the BMW PGA Championship this week, has been impressively forthright on the subject. This weekend, the European Tour will test various innovations at Wentworth as it seeks to rid golf of the curse of slow play.
“I think it [the plan] is a start,” McIlroy said. On slow play, he added: “It’s not a great thing for our game. I don’t want to single out particular people, but I watched a lot of the Solheim Cup at the weekend and it was really slow.
“As much as you want to sit there and watch and support the European girls, it’s just hard not to get frustrated with it. I am a fan of golf and I want the best for the game, something has to be done.”
Solheim competitors were on track for six-hour rounds during the first two days of competition, a scenario skewed slightly because not many matches lasted 18 holes.
McIlroy said: “It’s hard because there’s different scenarios where you have to take your time. It was tough conditions up there. It was windy. But you know, something has to be done.
“If you look at the US Open final, Rafa [Nadal] got a time clock violation on a really big serve. Like, at the end of the final of the US Open. So if they can do it then there’s no reason why we can’t. It’s just a matter of enforcing it and being consistent with it.”
There was a chance McIlroy would not have appeared at Wentworth this week had he stuck to a plan mooted at the end of last season not to rejoin the European Tour. The 30-year-old Northern Irishman relented in signing up before the May deadline after some advice was offered close to home.
“It was my wife,” McIlroy revealed. “She sort of said to me ‘what are you trying to do, or what sort of point are you trying to make?’
“My thing was I knew I wasn’t going to play in the Irish Open [this year] and the rule was that you have to play an extra two events if you don’t play your home open. Keith Pelley [the European Tour chief executive] and I sat down, and I said ‘Keith, I can’t possibly do that.’
“It wasn’t just me. Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren and the guys from Sweden, the Swedish Open clashed with some of the FedEx Cup stuff. They were in a similar position as well.
“Keith came back to me and said ‘okay, if we make a compromise where instead of playing two extra, you have to play three of these events, three of those Rolex Series events a year.’ I said: ‘Done, 100 per cent done.’ Once we had that conversation it was totally fine.”
After his most consistent career season on the PGA Tour, this is the first of five tournaments to close out McIlroy’s 2019. This event is the first in respect of automatic qualifying for the European Ryder Cup team of 2020.
Padraig Harrington, the captain, has now added Robert Karlsson as the first of what will become five assistants.
Harrington will spend the first two rounds at Wentworth in the company of Viktor Hovland. The 22-year-old Norwegian has earned a formidable reputation when emerging in the US, and now has a Ryder Cup debut in his sights. A draw alongside Harrington, needless to say, is no coincidence.
“That would mean everything to be part of the team,” Hovland said. “I love college golf so much. Even though professional golf is really cool I still think about the times that we had in college. There’s nothing better than winning a tournament as a team, and hopefully one day I’ll be part of a winning Ryder Cup team.”