Rory McIlroy’s costly WD penalty will stand, says PGA Tour commissioner
It will go down as one of the costliest WDs in recent golf history — officially.
On Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan confirmed that Rory McIlroy will, in fact, be penalized a whopping $3 million for his WD at the RBC Heritage in April, confirming weeks of reports that the four-time major winner stood to lose millions for violating PGA Tour playing requirements.
The situation traces back to McIlroy’s surprise WD from Hilton Head on the morning of the first tournament round — a decision McIlroy has subsequently declined to elaborate on with media, saying only that it was a “private matter.” At the time of his WD, a few eagle-eyed followers noted that McIlroy found himself in violation of the PGA Tour’s newly instated playing requirements for designated events. Per PGA Tour rules, players were allowed to miss only one designated event in the program’s first season, and those who missed more than one event would be penalized 25% of their Player Impact Program winnings.
McIlroy, who missed the Sentry Tournament of Champions in order to compete in the DP World Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic (an event he later won), had already collected his first designated event absence by the time Hilton Head rolled around. By missing the RBC Heritage, he’d be collecting a second absence, thereby triggering a penalty amounting to 25% of his PIP winnings, or a total of $3 million.
At the time, it seemed the final decision on McIlroy’s penalty was up to Monahan, who as Tour leader held discretionary powers in the case of penalties. Some wondered if Monahan might look the other way on the WD and let McIlroy keep the $3 million, considering Rory’s role supporting and enacting the Tour policies that have helped shore up its standing against LIV Golf. But at the Wells Fargo, Monahan confirmed that McIlroy would receive no such quid pro quo. Instead, he would receive the penalty as written by the Tour, amounting to a $3 million loss in bonus money.
“When we made the commitment to this schedule with the Player Impact Program, we adjusted for one opt-out and for any second opt-out, you forfeit 25 percent unless there were some medical issues,” Monahan said in a session with reporters from multiple outlets. “When you’re in a situation like that, you just have to look at the criteria. In terms of any situation like that, we’re going to look at a situation and we’re going to make a decision.”
It should be noted that McIlroy isn’t technically being fined $3 million, but rather, is “failing to realize” his full $12 million bonus. As the Tour’s policy is written, PIP bonuses are earned in two installments. The first installment, which amounts to 75% of the earned bonus, is paid on the first week of the calendar year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions; the second installment, which amounts to remaining 25%, is paid upon the completion of the PGA Tour season and is contingent upon those meeting the attendance requirement. It may sound like a matter of semantics, but it’s important to the Tour.
“We’ve tried to create the right parameters and structure to make certain that players want to show up,” Monahan said. “You’re looking at the consequences in terms of FedEx Cup points, sizes of fields, concentration of top players and them having the ability to compete against each other. So the confidence is high.”
Still, in some ways, McIlroy is a victim of his own success. Had he not been such a popular player in 2022, he might not have received the $12 million payout from the PIP fund to begin with, leaving him with a smaller ultimate penalty. Still, it’s unlikely we’ll hear Rory complaining about the lost cash. On one hand, he’s one of the Tour’s wealthiest players (with a net worth in the hundreds of millions). On the other, he’s been one of the Tour’s most vehement supporters of playing requirements (or, at the very least, playing suggestions) on the grounds of the importance of showing golf’s top players competing more frequently.
“When I tune into a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game I expect to see Tom Brady throw a football. When I tune into a Formula 1 race I expect to see Lewis Hamilton in a car,” he said. “Sometimes what’s happened on the PGA Tour is we all act independently and we sort of have our own schedules, and that means that we never really get together all that often.”
It’s an eye-popping monetary loss for one of the Tour’s best players, a cautionary tale on the fickle nature of playing requirements, or something else entirely, depending upon your perspective. But there’s no doubting what Rory McIlroy hopes it is: his most expensive WD ever.