The China Government has a history of detaining dissidents but putting the gleaming U.S. Open trophy under lock and key just sounds too bizarre to be true.
Yet in one the strangest scenarios ever to engulf any sport, Chinese customs have the U.S. Open trophy in their possession and they’re refusing to release it.
McIlroy had intended to showcase the U.S. Open trophy he won at Congressional in his closing six events of 2011 – the Lake Maclaren Shanghia Masters, the WGC – HSBC Champions, last week’s Mission Hills World Cup, this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open and his final two events of the year, the Dubai World Championship and the Asian Tour’s Thailand Golf Championship commencing on December 15th in Bangkok.
Next week’s European Tour season-ending event in Dubai is special as McIlroy had been asked by the European Tour to bring the trophy with him so that it could be put on display along with Charl Schwartzel’s Augusta National winning green jacket and the famed Claret Jug won by Darren Clarke at Royal St. Georges.
But unless Chinese authorities back down the trophy that was first handed out to American Horace Rawlins in 1895 at the Newport Golf Club will remain in Shanghai.
The United States Golf Association (USGA), who administer the U.S. Open, along with management giant International Management Group (IMG) and McIlroy’s Dublin-based Horizon Sports have been working feverously to have the trophy returned.
The U.S. Trophy was despatched by McIlroy’s previously management company, International Sports Management (ISM) to TNT Transport for shipping to Shanghai for the Shanghai Masters that McIlroy won in a play-off from American Anthony Kim.
However that is the last time anyone has laid eyes on the trophy.
“ISM shipped the trophy out in its special protective box to Shanghai and the Lake Maclaren Shanghai Masters but there was no one present at the course to receive it so it was taken back to the shipping agents depot,” said Horizon Sports Conor Ridge.
“So I then got in contact with IMG in order we could at least have the trophy on hand for the following week’s HSBC Champions event because they wanted to put the trophy on display at Sheshan as they’ve done in the past.
“But I was informed that China customs said they were now not releasing the trophy, and they still won’t give it to us.
“We’ve now got the USGA involved while IMG are working on the case and our guys at Horizons are also working with IMG trying to get the trophy released from customs.
“We’ve tried to send someone to Shanghai so they can be handed the trophy in person but they’re just not releasing it.”
In fact, McIlroy had hinted something was not right with the trophy when asked last week on Hainan Island when quizzed if the U.S. Open trophy was in his possession.
“Well, not exactly!” was all he said.
And Ridge says he’s uncertain when McIlroy will next be able to embrace the U.S. Open trophy.
Only last week, Colin Montgomerie travelled to warn-torn Afghanistan with the Ryder Cup trophy when he visited British troops.
Also the Ryder Cup was on display on Wednesday night for all to hold and have their photographs with at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong where many of this week’s Hong Open players, including Padraig Harrington were present.