With such a unique set of circumstances arising this summer, Neil Tappin asks why is Rory McIlroy not playing the WGC Bridgestone Invitational?
For the best golfers in the world, the summer of 2016 presents a unique challenge and to a large extent explains why is Rory McIlroy not playing the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. The schedule has conspired to squeeze the US Open, WGC Bridgestone Invitational, Open Championship, USPGA, Olympics, Fed Ex Cup and Ryder Cup into just 16 weeks. This might seem like a dream run to those of us who spend our time sat at a desk but for the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler the important question to answer is this: how do you stay competitive during such a long run of important competition?
For the Northern Irishman there is yet another challenge. In order to retain his playing rights on the European Tour, he, like everyone else, needs to play at least five regular European Tour events (outside the majors and WGC events).
With such a jammed summer schedule on the horizon as well as his obligations as host of the Irish Open, McIlroy had already felt it necessary to miss the Tour’s flagship event – the BMW Championship at Wentworth. This week sees the 100th playing of the French Open, an event that usually draws an excellent field. However, due to the Olympics landing slap bang in the middle of the busiest part of the season, the WGC Bridgestone Invitational was moved from August to the same week as the French Open. Problem.
In order to entice a few top players to remain in Europe for this key event, the Tour decided to count the French Open as two tournaments on the Race to Dubai standings. With more Ryder Cup points to play for and a bigger prize fund on offer, the Tour were throwing their weight behind the 100th playing of the French Open.
In the end, the increased importance of the French, the difficulty of the schedule and the need to play five ‘normal’ European tour events all conspired to place Rory in Paris and not Akron this week. So whilst the likes of Spieth, Day, Rose and Johnson are all at the Bridgestone, Rory was toiling on the 2018 Ryder Cup course despite having previously won at Firestone.