Could Rory McIlroy, the No. 4 player in the Official World Golf Rankings, have felt pressure to play in the Fed Ex Cup playoffs?
According to statements made to the media on Wednesday, it certainly seems that way.
McIlroy, a four-time major winner, has been bothered by a fractured rib since January and lately dealing with back spasms. Both injuries flared up in recent weeks, which prompted him to publicly consider the idea that it was time to call it a season. “You might not see me until next year,” McIlroy said after the P.G.A. Championship this month.
In his pretournament news conference Wednesday, McIlroy suggested that there had been considerations beyond his personal desire for rest when deciding whether he would shut down for the season.
“There was definitely external pressures,” he said. “Yeah, of course, there’s external pressures. Look, sometimes this decision doesn’t just lie with you but with other factors, other factors. That was definitely a part of it.”
Instead of taking time off from competitive play, he is playing this week in the Northern Trust at Glen Oaks, in N.Y.
McIlroy won the Tour Championship a year ago and sealed his claim to the FedEx Cup, and its $10 million prize.
When McIlroy says external pressures, he does not expand on their nature, but one would assume they come from his sponsors, who signed him to contracts reported to be between 200 to 300 million dollars over a ten year period. He is under contract to play with Taylor Made clubs and wear Nike apparel and golf shoes. Taylor Made was recently sold to a Wall Street investment firm.
McIlroy’s play has been dismal this year, and combined with his recent marriage, it would be understandable that he has not been totally devoted to improving his game in addition to dealing with injuries.
In regard to the possible pressure from sponsors, that is entirely speculation, but with that many millions invested in a player, the sponsor wants to see him and their product and logo’s at as many events as possible, and certainly at the season ending playoffs for the PGA Tour.
In the case of Tiger Woods, requiring yet another back surgery there is certainly less pressure and more of a get well soon message sent from a sponsor.
McIlroy’s said he was trying to decide when to take time off to rehab. He could play, but not up to his expectations and had considered ending the season early to give himself more time to rehab the injuries.
From his statement to the media it sounds as if sponsors helped persuade him to wait till after the Fed Ex Cup playoffs. With millions of dollars invested in McIlroy that would be the logical business decision, but only McIlroy and his sponsors know for sure.
Something changed his mind, and time will tell if it was the right decision for all parties involved in the decision to play this week.