Rory McIlroy is among many Europeans who have annually loaded up their playing schedules in order to maintain membership on both the US PGA Tour and the European Tour. It’s easier said than done, and potentially has impacted his performance over the past two seasons, a period in which the 29-year-old from Northern Ireland has won just one tournament on either tour (the Arnold Palmer Invitational this past March).
For just that reason, come 2019, McIlroy is re-thinking his schedule. During his press conference ahead of the European Tour’s season finale, the DP World Tour Championship, the four-time Major winner acknowledged that that might mean he will give up his membership in Europe.
“Right now, that is all sort of up in the air, but if it were to be that I don’t fulfill my membership next year, it’s not a Ryder Cup year, so it’s not the end of the world,” McIlroy said. “I am always going to want to play the Ryder Cup, so if that does happen, so be it, and I will try and make the Ryder Cup team the year after.”
To maintain his European Tour status, McIlroy needs to compete in four regular tour events outside the Major championships and WGC tournaments. For now, McIlroy has committed to play in just the European Masters, and is leaning towards competing in the Scottish Open instead of the Irish Open.
McIlroy explained that he wants to spend his time concentrating on playing the best competition on a weekly basis. “For the most part of the season, that is in America,” McIlroy said.
“It is a big shift, but I think it is good for a lot of reasons.”
While his 2019 tour status might not impact McIlroy being able to play in the 2020 Ryder Cup (he can rejoin the tour in 2020), his bigger-picture participation in the biennial matches might actually cause him to rethink his schedule strategy. A European Tour rule that went into effect this year states that “Players cannot be a European Ryder Cup captain or vice-captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfill their minimum event obligation in any season”. Whether McIlroy wants to test tour chief executive Keith Pelley’s resolve on this isn’t entirely clear.
McIlroy could change his mind and add events to his schedule at any point in the year. Just don’t expect him to add anything early. McIlroy says that after this week he intends to play just once in the next 13 weeks.
“The way the schedule has worked for next year, it is going to be different for a lot of guys,” McIlroy said. “I think everything is going to be so condensed between March and August so that’s why I’m going to be taking quite a big off season to get myself ready.”