The spice of life

The European Tour must keep its variety, even if Rory McIlroy doesn’t like it

Rory McIlroy’s comments at the Dunhill Links press conference were, by his own later admission, a flawed argument, but the European Tour will still be looking at what its biggest star had to say – I just hope the tour doesn’t take his comments to heart.

Following a tied 26th finish in Scotland, McIlroy said: “I’m sort of honestly sick of coming back over to the European Tour and shooting 15 under-par and finishing 30th. I don’t think the courses are set up hard enough. There are no penalties for bad shots. It’s not a good test.”

While I understand why McIlroy would make the point – as one of the best players in the world he would want the courses setup tough to minimise the number of players capable of shooting low scores – there are a couple of reasons why the European Tour would be best advised to stick with its current setup.

Firstly, the European Tour is an entertainment product. Birdies are more entertaining than pars, therefore more birdies equals more entertainment. It was a bit of a cheap shot to make the argument on the week of a pro am event, played in the relatively benign conditions in Scotland. That 22 under-par won the event on one of the easiest setups of the year is hardly absurd. Perhaps his argument would have been better suited at Le Golf National or Royal Portrush?

Second, would you really prefer sitting down to watch the European Tour and seeing the same bomb and gouge golf we see on the PGA Tour? The European Tour’s greatest strength is its variety. The links swing – the Irish and Scottish opens followed by The Open Championship was one of the best golfing stretches of the year. Visits to Valderrama, Wentworth and Crans-sur-Sierre are infinitely more interesting than watching 156 players put on a chipping and putting contest at TPC something or other.

They say variety is the spice of life, and regardless of what Rory McIlroy prefers, the European Tour must provide that variety. It’s Europe’s unique selling point over the PGA Tour and without it, the tour risks losing what makes it special.