Rory McIlroy has made another u-turn and vowed to play in enough European Tour events in 2019 to retain his membership, but controversially will miss his home tournament the Irish Open.
McIlroy is playing most of his golf in the United States this year and has enjoyed a positive start with top-5 finishes in his three most recent appearances.
That decision to stay Stateside this year caused significant dismay on the other side of the Atlantic, with McIlroy struggling to fit the required four European Tour events into his schedule, something that would see him lose membership of the tour if he failed to play in the required number of tournaments.
But the 29-year-old has now committed to fulfilling the requirements, a move which would mean he could be a future Ryder Cup captain. Players losing their European Tour membership during their career are ruled out of captaining Europe in the bi-annual clash with the United States.
“I wouldn’t miss that [Ryder Cup] for the world,” said four-time major winner McIlroy, who is also a four-time Ryder Cup winner following Europe’s latest success in the 2018 edition at Le Golf National in Paris.
“I’m still going to be a member of the team. I’m just going to sort of play as little as I can on the European Tour to save myself for the golf that I’m playing everywhere else also.”
McIlroy’s u-turn in committing to playing in at least four European Tour events—excluding The Open Championship and WGC events—has come about in order to preserve his long-term Ryder Cup ambitions. But significantly there is a twist in one tournament he will miss.
McIlroy hosted the Irish Open since 2015 but will miss his home event for the first time since 2007. Rather than lining up at Lahinch, he plans to take a week off to be fresh of the 2019 Open Championship which will be held for the first time in Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush.
He has already agreed to play the Scottish Open the week before the Open Championship and with the year’s final major being held in his home country, McIlroy’s feels that gives him just reason to skip the Irish Open.
“If there is ever a year when I feel I can miss this Irish Open, it’s this year,” said McIlroy. “If I was to play the Irish Open, The Open would be my third event in a row. For me, that’s not the best way to prepare for what could be the biggest event of my life (the Open at Royal Portrush).
“I love the Irish Open. I’ve supported it my whole career. The people of Ireland are still going to see me playing golf because I’m going to play The Open and I’m sure a lot of people will travel from down south to see me play.”
The Scottish Open will be one of the four events McIlroy can tick off the required number, but the remainder remains unclear. The British Masters and Omega Masters in Switzerland are possibilities, but it is likely he will not appear until the latter end of the season.
See also: Rory McIlroy Makes European Tour U-turn