Rory McIlroy says he will play in 2020 Irish Open
Four-time Major winner hinted that in hindsight he should maybe have played Lahinch
Rory McIlroy during the Pro Am event prior to the start of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy has said he will play in next year’s Irish Open after missing the tournament this year as part of his preparation for the British Open at Royal Portrush.
McIlroy took on hosting duties at the Irish Open in 2015 when it looked like the tournament may cease to exist and he won the title in 2016. However, last year the Northern Irishman caused a stir when he decided to skip the event after handing over those hosting duties to Paul McGinley.
McIlroy put it down to not wanting to play too many consecutive weeks before a home British Open in Portrush but his disastrous first round there and missed cut led him to re-evaluate.
“The Irish Open is always going to be, not just a possibility, but you know, I felt that my best preparation for The Open Championship this year was to play the Scottish Open and not play the one before. Obviously in hindsight, I probably should have played at Lahinch,” McIlroy said on Wednesday ahead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
“But you live and you learn. You make these decisions and you’ve got to live with them.
“Yeah, I’ll be playing The Irish Open next year. I most likely won’t play Abu Dhabi or Dubai. I’m going to take basically all of December and most of January off and start in the States, probably, and give myself that time to sort of rest and reset, and then go again.
“So, I think going forward, you’re going to see most of the top guys doing similar things to me.”
The date has not yet been confirmed for next year’s tournament as the usual slot two weeks before the British Open now clashes with the WGC FedEx Invitational in the US and there has been talk of a move back to a date in May with Mount Juliet potentially acting as the venue.
While a clash with a World Golf Championship would not be ideal, McIlroy reiterated to BBC NI after his press conference that he will play the Irish Open no matter what the date or venue.
“I said I wouldn’t miss it two years in a row so people can expect to see me there,” McIlroy said.
“No matter where or when it is scheduled, it wouldn’t be ideal for it to clash with the World Golf Championship.”
McIlroy will tee it up alongside Shane Lowry and Francesco Molinari for the first two rounds at this week’s Rolex Series event and he admits that his initial hesitation about re-joining the European Tour this year was eventually decided by his wife.
McIlroy has to play four European Tour events outside the majors and World Golf Championship events to be a member, but initially had just two on his 2019 schedule.
“Everyone has to look out for themselves and next year I’m looking out for me,” McIlroy said during the DP World Tour Championship in November, before describing the European Tour as “a stepping stone” ahead of the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January.
However, following a meeting with European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, McIlroy took up his membership before the May 1 deadline and can begin earning points for the 2020 Ryder Cup when qualification begins with this week’s BMW PGA Championship.
Asked what led to the change of heart, McIlroy said: “My wife. She said to me, ‘what are you trying to do, or what sort of point are you trying to make?’.
“I knew at the start of this year I wasn’t going to play the Irish Open and the rule was that you have to play an extra two events if you don’t play your home Open. Keith Pelley and I sat down and I said, ‘Keith, I can’t possibly do that’ and it wasn’t just me.
“Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren and the guys from Sweden, the Swedish Open clashed with some of the FedEx Cup stuff. They were in a similar position, as well.
“Keith came back to me and said, ‘OK if we make a compromise where instead of playing two extra, you have to play three Rolex Series Events a year’ and I said, ‘done, 100 percent done’. Once we had that conversation, it was totally fine.
“I don’t want to try and make the European Tour bend the rules for me in any way, but I just think we’re trying our best over on the other side of the pond, we are trying our best over here and just needed to come to some sort of compromise where we felt comfortable that we can compete on both tours. I think that was a fair deal in the end.”