Rory McIlroy: ‘If you really care about your career you should be here’
World number one surprised likes of Tommy Fleetwood didn’t make the trip to the US
Rory McIlroy talks to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and Arthur Blank, Home Depot cofounder, owner of the PGA Tour Superstore, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC during a practice round prior to the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy, the world number one, is venturing into unchartered terrain of sort on the PGA Tour’s resumption: last week, he played at Colonial for the first time; this week, he’s at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina, for the first time in 11 years . . . . and wondering why a number of his fellow European players haven’t bothered to make the transatlantic journey to play!
The likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood are among those who have opted to remain at home in England rather than go through the required 14 days quarantine in the United States: “Personally, if I were in their shoes and I was asked to come over to the States and shelter in place or quarantine for two weeks before these tournaments, I would have done that. If you really care about your career, and care about moving forward, you should be here, I think,” argued McIlroy.
He continued: “I get there is different variables and families and stuff involved. But we all have the means to rent a very nice house in a gated community in Florida. It’s not a hardship for two weeks to come over and quarantine . . . . I honestly don’t understand the guys complaining because there is a solution to it. You can come over here and do what needs to be done.”
McIlroy’s caddie, Harry Diamond, went through his fortnight of quarantine at the player’s home in Florida – staying in the guest house – and the two stayed in the same rented accommodation last week in Dallas and are doing similar in Hilton Head for this week’s tour stop to minimise off-course interactions and reducing the risk of contracting Covid-19.
World ranking points
Fleetwood et al have decided not to go through that quarantine scenario, even though the European Tour remains stalled. It is scheduled to resume with two tournaments in Austria next month – dual badge events, counting on both the European and Challenge Tours – and then into a run of six events on the so-called UK Swing. The amount of world ranking points on offer at the PGA Tour events in the United States, however, dwarf those that will be available in Europe during that reopening stretch. There are 72 points available to the winner of the Heritage.
Spain’s Jon Rahm would have the opportunity to leapfrog McIlroy to go to world number one with a win at Harbour Town, where he would also need the Northern Irishman to finish worse than a two-way tie for third.
McIlroy went into the final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in contention only to fall away with a poor front nine of 41 strokes in finishing with a 74 to fall to tied-32nd.
“I played crap, that was really it. No, look, it’s fine . . . . it was a good gauge to see where I was at and what I need to practice and what I needed to do going into the next few week. Obviously disappointing not to shoot a good one on Sunday, but I learnt quite a bit from it and hopefully those lessons I can put into practice this week,” he said.
Learn a few things
McIlroy’s only previous appearance at the Heritage came in 2009. He played the front nine on Tuesday with Emiliano Grillo, Jhonatan Vegas and Branden Grace and took in the back nine Wednesday playing alone, figuring out the holes with just his caddie Diamond. “It’s sometimes nice just to get out there on your own, especially if you want to see a new golf course that you haven’t seen in a while, just to sort of go about your business with your caddie and learn a few things about the course.”
While McIlroy got into contention only to fade away in the final round at Colonial, both Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry are seeking to bounce back from missed cuts. At least McDowell, a winner in 2013, and Lowry, third a year ago, have decent memories of the tight Heritage course, although McDowell said he had to play a four-iron approach into the 18th in practice. However, McDowell noted the wind is expected to switch direction during tournament days, which should provide a little respite for a hole consistently ranked one of the toughest on tour.