THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Rory McIlroy wasn’t the least bit bothered by getting snubbed as the PGA Tour rookie of the year because the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland never considered himself a rookie.
In a vote of the players, Rickie Fowler was voted the top rookie on the PGA Tour, even though he didn’t win a tournament.
McIlroy, who turned pro in Europe in 2008, won the Quail Hollow Championship against one of the strongest fields of the year. He tied a major championship record at St. Andrews with a 63 when he tied for third at the British Open, and he tied for third in another major at the PGA Championship.
Neither of them reached the Tour Championship.
“It’s fine,” McIlroy said Sunday after making four birdies in his last five holes at the Chevron World Challenge to finish fourth. “Look, I really didn’t want it. I’m not a rookie.”
The PGA Tour considers him a rookie because it was his first full year on Tour, which is why McIlroy was on the ballot with Fowler, Puerto Rico Open winner Derek Lamely and Alex Prugh.
The tour does not reveal how many players voted or the results.
The 21-year-old Fowler did not turn pro until the fall of 2009 after playing in the Walker Cup. After going through Q-school, he had runner-up finishes in the Phoenix Open and Memorial, and became the first tour rookie picked for the Ryder Cup team.
“When I joined the PGA Tour, I was top 10 in the world,” McIlroy said. “Rickie had an unbelievable year. He deserves it.”
Without polling the players – assuming they even voted – it was difficult to know if McIlroy was snubbed because players don’t consider him a true rookie, or because he announced last month that he would not take up U.S. membership for next year.
“It might be a little of both,” McIlroy said.
The interpretation of a “true rookie” has not been a problem before. Vijay Singh won the award in 1993 when he was 30, having won in various parts of the world. Todd Hamilton was 39 when he won the award in 2004 on the strength of two victories, including the British Open. Hamilton had played almost exclusively in Asia until that year.
Dustin Johnson, who said he did not vote, was not aware the award had been announced Saturday night.
“He’s going to get votes because he had a decent year,” Johnson said of Fowler. “But McIlroy is going to win. He’s got to win.”
Told the result, Johnson added, “Rickie won? Maybe he’s an American. I don’t know why.”
McIlroy said the award was not among his goals for the year.
“I’m happy for Rickie that he got it,” McIlroy said. “Coming straight out of college, playing the Walker Cup in 09, the Ryder Cup, winning nearly $3 million, getting to 25th in the worth. It’s a great first year. That’s what a rookie should be – the first year. I don’t feel like I should have been eligible.”