Why Rory McIlroy Is Making a Mistake by Delaying His 2013 PGA Tour Debut

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2013

MARANA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during the first round of the World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain on February 21, 2013 in Marana, Arizona. Round one play was suspended on February 20 due to inclimate weather and is scheduled to be continued today.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Technically, Rory McIlroy made his 2013 PGA tour debut when he competed in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship last week.

That appearance lasted just one round, as the top player in the world was defeated by Shane Lowry in the first round.

That's one of the facts of life about match play. If you can't keep winning, you are sent home swiftly.

McIlroy finally makes his return to a 72-hole tour event this week when he defends his title at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

McIlroy has been competing on the worldwide stage and playing in exhibitions, but he has not played in any regular tour events at this point in the year.

McIlroy, 23, emerged as the No. 1 player in the world last year when he won the Honda Classic. He has won major championships each of the past two years and looks like a worthy competitor for Tiger Woods for the next few years.

However, even though he has brilliant talent and charisma, why is he following a golf legend's tournament pattern?

Why is he waiting until the end of February/beginning of March to compete in his first 72-hole tournament?

If he wants to add to his cache, the best thing he could do is play tournaments and start winning. Woods, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker are among those who have already won on the tour this year. McIlroy has been polishing his trophies and sitting on the sidelines—at least as far as the PGA is concerned—when he should be competing.

Has McIlroy done himself any serious damage by picking his spot before returning to the tour?

Probably not.

But the idea is to run off great season after great season.

Whether he realizes it or not, waiting to compete sends a message to his fellow competitors. That message is open to interpretation, but one of the conclusions that can be drawn is that McIlroy does not think the early-season events are important enough to merit his attention.

McIlroy is making some changes to his game this year. He is changing his equipment and it may take some time to get used to. According to PGATour.com, he is using 14 new clubs as well as a new golf ball.

“It’s fine,” McIlroy told PGATour.com. “I knew coming into it was going to be a bit of a process and I knew there was going to be comments if it didn’t happen for me right way."

New equipment cannot be used as an excuse for the top player in the world if he does not perform at the Honda Classic or any other tournament. McIlroy is scheduled to play in about 20 PGA Tour events this year.

Like Woods, McIlroy is most interested in the major championships. However, McIlroy is still on the upswing in his career. He does not have to limit or delay his appearances on the tour.

He is young enough that he should be playing more than 20 tournaments per year.

It's not about the money.

It's about demonstrating the hunger to be on the tour every week and not just on an occasional basis.

McIlroy may have the talent to walk with the greats who have preceded him in the game. Does he have the desire?

That's still to be determined.