By Bernie McGuire
BAD GRIESBACH, Germany, (Reuters) - New European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley has described four-times major winner Rory McIlroy as "a great ambassador for world golf".
The 26-year-old Northern Irishman's season has been marred by an ankle injury sustained during a game of soccer with his friends and he has been overtaken by American Jordan Spieth and Jason Day of Australia at the top of the rankings.
Pelley says McIlroy is a "terrific guy" and someone the European Tour is counting on "for many more years to come".
"Rory is one of the greatest ambassadors to the game of golf," the Canadian told Reuters in an interview at last week's European Open.
"His value to the European Tour is significant but his value to the world of golf is even more significant.
"He’s charismatic, he’s intelligent, he’s well-spoken and he's everything you want in an ambassador. We are fortunate he is a member of the European Tour."
Pelley, who took over as chief executive from George O'Grady earlier this year, said the world number three would be an integral part of his strategy going forward.
"There's no question Rory and some of the elite players are critical in the plans of the European Tour," he explained.
"But more importantly any time Rory plays golf and any time that Rory talks and speaks with the media, it is positive for our game.
"Anything that is positive for our game must be positive for our European Tour."
As president of Rogers Media, Pelley has been responsible for 51 radio stations, 56 publications, 12 national TV stations plus 42 local stations and 300 digital properties as well as the Toronto Blue Jays, Canada's only Major League Baseball team.
He said, however, that he had gone though a steep learning curve in his first few months with the European Tour.
Among the decisions Pelley has had to make is to allow McIlroy to feature in the lucrative four-tournament Final Series even though the Northern Irishman will not play the minimum number of tournaments this season.
"Dealing with the McIlroy situation was a good learning experience for me," he added. "It gave me the opportunity to understand all facets of the tour's regulations.
"We forensically looked at the entire process from a real, open and transport side and made the decision we felt was best for the tour, and it's been supported by the players.
"We looked at Rory's overall schedule and realistically, after chatting with independent doctors and Rory's team and analyzing it from all sides, we were of the opinion he could play no more events than he has agreed to play," said Pelley.
"The European Tour is a members' organization and we want to build and grow this together as it's not about the tour dictating which way to go. I want the players' input and to share ideas or concepts with them."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)