Rory McIlroy will miss the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this month in a further blow to the European Tour’s “flagship” event.
McIlroy is defending his title in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow this week and will then contest the Players Championship and Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, an event hosted by his own foundation.
That means the BMW PGA Championship, which he won in 2014, would have been a fourth tournament in a row and the world number three had previously indicated he was not keen on such a schedule following the ankle injury he suffered in 2015.
McIlroy’s agent confirmed that Wentworth was not on the four-time major winner’s schedule but that he would play in the Memorial Tournament the following week in preparation for the US Open at Oakmont.
Speaking ahead of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last November, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said he wanted to see the BMW PGA Championship offering more prize money than its current ‘’unacceptable’’ 5million euros.
‘’A lot of people talk about Wentworth as being a flagship event,” Pelley said. “Wentworth is 5.1million euros. The other event in the US that week is 6.1. That’s unacceptable. Wentworth needs to be eight to 10million dollars.
‘’The important thing for me at Wentworth is what they do to the West Course. From everything that I have heard, there is significant investment. We are continuing at Wentworth until at least 2018 and if the West Course becomes exactly what they believe it will, and we can increase the prize purse, then perhaps it can be a flagship event going forward.
‘’Our flagship event right here is the DP World Tour Championship, which is eight million dollars plus a bonus prize.’’
McIlroy, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Wednesday, told a press conference ahead of his defence of the Wells Fargo Championship: “The reason I took three weeks off after Augusta was that I’m not going to have more than a week off until after the Ryder Cup. Until October it’s going to be very busy.
“I’m playing here, next week at the Players, the Irish Open and then it’s basically week on, week off from there. Memorial, week off, US Open, week off, French Open, week off, Open, week off, PGA, week off, Olympics, week off, Fed Ex Cup, Ryder Cup.
“There’s a little bit of travel in there as well so it’s a busy stretch coming up and you can’t play every week. You want to feel as fresh as you can for every tournament that you play so I feel it’s the best way for me to approach it.”
The good news for the European Tour is that McIlroy is playing the 100th Open de France instead of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, which he won in 2014.
A re-working of the PGA Tour’s 2016 calendar to accommodate golf’s return to the Olympics saw the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational brought forward to the end of June, bringing it into direct conflict with the French Open at Le Golf National, venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
The European Tour responded by withdrawing its sanction of the WGC event just two days after Shane Lowry won it last August, meaning money won in Akron will not count for Ryder Cup points or towards the Race to Dubai.
The French Open will also offer increased prize money and extra Ryder Cup qualifying points, as well as counting as two of the five tournaments outside majors and WGC events which players now need to play to fulfil their membership.