Rory McIlroy still focusing more on the PGA Tour in 2019
‘My life’s here. I have an American wife. I live in America. Honestly, I enjoy it here more’
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot during a practice round prior to the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club Plantation in Lahaina, Hawaii. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy has reiterated his intention to spend most of his time playing on the PGA Tour this season and therefore potentially not fulfill his European Tour membership.
The four-time Major winner said recently that he plans to play possibly only two events on the European Tour outside the Majors and the World Golf Championships – believed to be the Omega European Masters due to a sponsor obligation and the Scottish Open the week before the Open Championship at Royal Portrush – and while he did not say for definite that such a schedule will happen, he did make it clear that he sees his life and his career as now being mainly US-based. Were he to play just those two events it would mean he would miss the Irish Open at Lahinch which takes place two weeks before the Open – McIlroy has already said that he prefers to play just one week before a Major.
Were McIlroy not to play four European Tour events he would forfeit his membership of the circuit and, under the current rules, make it impossible for him to be a Ryder Cup captain in the future. While recent reports of a lunch with European Tour CEO Keith Pelley seemed to allay those fears with McIlroy reportedly planning to play the required number of events, the 29-year-old didn’t make that clear when he spoke to Golf Digest ahead of this week’s Tournament of Champions on the PGA Tour in Hawaii.
“My life’s here [in the US]. I have an American wife. I live in America. Honestly, I enjoy it here more. The way of life is easier. The weather. The convenience,” he said.
“It’s so one-sided,” he continued. “Look, you can talk all you want about these bigger events in Europe, but you can go to America and play for more money and more ranking points. I think as well with the world ranking points, everyone out here, all of their contracts with sponsors, it’s all about world ranking points. If players are getting paid more and earning more world ranking points, why would you play over there?”
McIlroy has been a long-time supporter of the European Tour and has won seven times on the circuit outside the Majors and WGCs – including an Irish Open in 2016 and three Race to Dubai titles – but he now feels it is time for him to step back from such duties as hosting the Irish Open and focus instead on himself and his quest for a career Grand Slam.
“The ultimate goal is here,” McIlroy said. “The European Tour is a stepping stone. That’s the truth. The European Tour is a stepping stone. That’s the way it is. It’s tough. I still want to support the European Tour, and I talk about this loyalty thing with Europe. [But] it’s not as though I’m just starting out and jumping ship. I’ve done my time. I’ve done everything I feel like I need to do to say okay, I’m going to make my own decisions and do what I want.”
This week will be the first time the former world number one will tee it up at the PGA Tour’s winners-only event at the Plantation Course in Kapalua as he hopes to get off to a fast start on tyhe PGA Tour when he previously would have started his season with the European Tour’s desert swing. It’s the first time McIlroy has played since the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November and he goes in search of a first win since the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March. He tees off at midday local time on Thursday (10pm Irish time) alongside Xander Schauffele.