The PGA Tour’s penchant for grouping some of the game’s marquee names together for the first two rounds of tournaments may have backfired, according to Rory McIlroy.
Speaking at this week’s Memorial Tournament, McIlroy wondered out loud if the marquee pairing system used by the PGA Tour and other tournament organizers in order to create buzz and watchability over the first few days of the tournament could be negatively impacting those big-name stars from impacting the leaderboard on Saturday and Sunday.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 30, 2018
“I had this chat with Jay Monahan a couple weeks ago at The Players about how the featured groups at The Players sort of backfired a little bit,” McIlroy said. “You put the top guys together and you’re trying to — not as if you were trying to rig the field, but you want these top guys playing together on a Sunday, not on a Thursday. So whatever the best way is to get those guys to get to that point, it’s good for them, it’s good for the tournament, it’s good for everyone.
” mean I don’t mind playing with the top guys in the first two days, but the objective is to get those top guys in contention on Sunday. I get why they’re doing it, and I get why it creates a bit of a buzz at the start of the week. But I would rather see Rickie and Phil and Tiger play on a Sunday rather than on a Thursday and two of them going home.”
Rory McIlroy on featured groups, Wednesday: "You want these top guys playing together on a Sunday, not on a Thursday."
First two featured groups, Thursday: 7-over so far.
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) May 31, 2018
McIlroy’s comments came after playing in one of the most star-studded pairings of the week at the Players Championship last month. Over the first two days of the event, McIlroy played alongside Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. McIlroy and Spieth would go on to miss the cut while Thomas made the weekend on the number. The other highly-anticipated pairing at The Players of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fower also saw two of its three competitors not make it to the weekend.
“There’s just so much buzz and hype around the group on a Thursday or Friday when there doesn’t really need to be,” McIlroy said. “And that could affect some players.”
McIlroy’s concerns were further validated on Thursday at the Memorial Tournament. Again included in a featured pairing, this time alongside Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, McIlroy opened up with a 2-over par 74. Jordan Spieth, who played alongside Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, saw his group’s combined score balloon to 4-over par on the first day.