Rory McIlroy plans a more PGA Tour-heavy 2019 slate, might give up European Tour status

Rory McIlroy may not be a member of the European Tour … for now. Or he might be. McIlroy noted this week at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai that he’s going to focus more on the PGA Tour in 2019. 

I guess I should say even more on the PGA Tour. Including this week’s World Tour Championship, McIlroy will have only played six European Tour-only tournaments in 2018, but it was enough to keep his card for this season. 

The rule for keeping your European Tour card states that a player must play four European Tour-specific tournaments in a season (that is, not majors and not WGCs). McIlroy, as of right now, is planning on only playing two next year. 

“I’ve got two events on my schedule in Europe,” he told reporters. “I am starting my year off in the U.S. [in Hawaii in January] and that Tour will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess from there. 

“I’ve a couple ‘pure’ European Tour events on my schedule up until the end of August,” he added. “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 toward the top of the game, then that’s what I want to do.”

That could change of course. Most of this is simply the fallout from a completely revamped European Tour schedule, which was an answer to a sort-of revamped PGA Tour schedule for the 2018-19 season. 

With the PGA Championship moving to May in the U.S., Europe’s answer was to push the majority of its big events into the fall. McIlroy simply hasn’t committed to anything past August when the PGA Tour slate ends. He could pretty easily fulfill the requirements, though, by playing two of the big events in September-November on the European Tour. 

All that to say, I’m not sure this is as big of a deal as its being made into. By losing European Tour status, McIlroy wouldn’t qualify for the Ryder Cup, but since 2019 is a gap year between events, he doesn’t have to worry about that. As James Corrigan of the Telegraph pointed out, though, his status as a future Ryder Cup captain could be in jeopardy.

The rule says: “Players cannot be a European Ryder Cup Captain or a Vice-Captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfill their minimum event obligation in any season, from 2018 onwards.”

I laughed out loud at that. The European Tour will change literally any rule it needs to shoehorn McIlroy into captaincy. That won’t be an issue. 

“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,” said McIlroy. “I am always going to want to play the Ryder Cup, and I will try and make the team the year later.”

The more interesting part for me is that with McIlroy now skipping the Middle East swing and focusing solely on the PGA Tour from January-August, you sort of have the makings of an unofficial world tour. PGA Tour in the spring and summer. European Tour in the late summer and fall.

Nobody will call it that, and those are two very separate organizations, but it does have the makings of a total year-long world tour if it comes to that in the future.

McIlroy has played at least 12 European Tour events (including majors and WGCs) every year since 2008.

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