Rory McIlroy may quit European Tour membership in 2019

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 13: Rory McIlroy speaks to the media during a press conference prior to the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 13, 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images) Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy may quit European Tour membership in 2019

Euro Tour

Rory McIlroy may quit European Tour membership in 2019

Rory McIlroy has dropped a few bombshells in his career, but the one he dropped on the eve of the $8 million DP World Tour Championship, Dubai will have sent shock waves through golf’s European Tour.

McIlroy claims he could quit his European Tour membership in 2019 to focus on the PGA Tour. Not the sort of news European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley wanted in the final event of the 2018 season.

“I don’t know,” was McIlroy’s answer when asked if he would renew his European Tour membership for 2019. “I am starting my year off in the States and that will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess from there.

“I’ve got a couple of ‘pure’ European Tour events on my schedule up until the end of August. I guess my thing is that I want to play against the strongest fields week-in and week-out and for the most part of the season that is in America.

“If I want to continue to contend in the majors and to continue my journey back towards the top of the game, then that’s what I want to do.”

The European Tour responded to the PGA Championship’s new May date by switching its BMW PGA Championship to September from its old date in May. McIlroy has been a keen supporter of the Euro Tour’s former flagship event, taking the title in 2014. However, the new date means he doesn’t have to tee it up in Europe until just before the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

“It is the result of the changes. I don’t have to commit to anything until May, so I will not have played a European Tour event. I will play the WGCs and majors and events like that, but the true European Tour season does not start until July.”

The Omega European Masters is one of the two “pure” European Tour events McIlroy will play before the end of August. The luxury watch company is one of McIlroy’s long-time sponsors.

The former world number one is expected to play the Irish or Scottish Open in the run up to the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. His foundation no longer sponsors the Irish Open, and so McIlroy has no contract to appear at Lahinch two weeks before the Open Championship. Given his penchant for playing the week before a major, it means he might appear in the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club the week before he flies to Northern Ireland to try to win his fifth major in front of his home fans.

“Right now that is all sort of up in the air but if it were to be that I don’t fulfil 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 with the year after it.”

McIlroy’s future Ryder Cup captaincy prospects will be in jeopardy if he sits out the 2019 European season. A new European Tour rule introduced last year states: “Players cannot be a European Ryder Cup captain or a vice-captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfil their minimum event obligation in any season, from 2018 onwards.”

European Tour players must compete in four “regular” European Tour events outside the majors and WGCs to fulfil membership requirements. Rest assured Pelley will working furiously behind the scenes to try to get his star attraction to tee it up in two of the late season tournaments to keep him in the European fold.

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