Rory McIlroy has focus firmly on PGA Tour in 2020

Four-time Major winner will play in the Irish Open for which the venue is yet to be decided

Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the 8th hole during The Challenge: Japan Skins at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. Photo: Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the 8th hole during The Challenge: Japan Skins at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. Photo: Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

 

The jury is still out on just where next year’s DDF Irish Open will be played. Mount Juliet – a past venue – in Co Kilkenny has its hat firmly in the ring; while, depending on how the gender membership review at Portmarnock Golf Club unfolds, that famed north Dublin links could yet re-emerge as a potential host venue for 2020.

One thing is certain, and that is that Rory McIlroy – who bypassed this year’s tournament at Lahinch as part of his build-up to the 148th British Open at Royal Portrush, a strategy which backfired it must be said – has committed to the tournament wherever it will be played.

McIlroy, in Japan for this week’s ZOZO Championship, which is part of the PGA Tour’s wraparound 2019/2020 season, again aims to spend most of his time playing stateside for the first part of the new season but will make one breakaway, to play in the DDF Irish Open on the European Tour.

Speaking ahead of the tournament in Japan, his first competitive appearance there since 2008, McIlroy remarked: “(This year) I definitely realised how travel affects me, and not just crossing time zones, but the effect that has on you not just the first week but the few weeks after that . . . . I definitely haven’t traveled as much this year as I have done in the past, especially bouncing back and forth across the Atlantic. That’s something I’m going to replicate going forward. I’ll start my season in the US. I’m going to play the Irish Open next year, which is probably the end of May. I’ll go back for that, but that’s the only scenario where I’ll go back until before the Open championship (at Royal St George’s).”

McIlroy will, of course, also play in the JP McManus Invitational at Adare Manor in the run-up to the British Open, but that huge charity tournament is a two-day event which is not part of the European Tour. (Incidentally, with the sold-out sign on general ticket sales to the pro-am, 100 tickets are being tendered to the highest bids this month by emailing tickets@jpmcmanusproam.com).

For world number two McIlroy, returning to competitive fare for the first time since the Alfred Dunhill Links and playing for the first time on the PGA Tour since scooping the FedEx Cup jackpot, the past week in Japan included taking in the Ireland v All Blacks rugby match – “It wasn’t the right result for me and for Ireland. I just had to sit back and be in awe and so impressed with New Zealand and how they play rugby and how good they were” – and that money Skins game with Jason Day (the big winner), Tiger Woods and Hideki Matsuyama.

And of that supposed big two rivalry with Broooks Koepka? Well, McIlroy ain’t falling for that one. “I would never want to make it just about two players. I think that’s a little disrespectful of all the other players that are trying to play well and trying to win tournaments . . . . I think for it just to be made about two people when parity in golf is something that is quite real, five people could put their hand up and say they’re the best player in the world right now.”

McIlroy’s point is made by the fact that this week’s main rivalry in Japan is not with the injured Koepka but with another American, Justin Thomas, who has two wins in his last four tournament outings.

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