January 2, 2019 / 11:31 AM / 5 months ago

McIlroy makes U.S. tour his No. 1 priority

Rory McIlroy is taking a new approach to his continent-hopping golf career in 2019.

FILE PHOTO: Golf - 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National - Guyancourt, France - September 30, 2018 - Team Europe's Rory McIlroy during the Singles REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

While the 29-year-old Northern Irishman isn’t completely abandoning the European Tour, he is putting his focus firmly on the United States-based PGA Tour.

Speaking Monday in Kapalua, Hawaii, where he is preparing for the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, McIlroy told reporters, “My life’s here (in the United States). 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. ...

“I’ve always been trying to split my time (between two tours, but) I’m sick of always showing up in Florida 100th in the FedEx Cup. Not that it’s a big deal. I’ll always play enough golf to give myself a chance at the end. I just don’t like seeing that number beside my name. The rest of the guys have played 12 PGA Tour events, and I’m playing my first or my second. ... You’re not in a good position starting off.”

According to Golf Digest, McIlroy probably won’t head back to Europe until July, just before the Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland.

Last year, McIlroy opened his campaign with two European Tour events in the Middle East, and he also played in the BMW PGA Championship near London in May and in the Irish Open in July. That gave him the minimum for Euro Tour events, not including the majors and World Golf Championship events that count for both tours, to retain his European Tour membership.

Should he fail to meet the Euro Tour’s requirements, he could become ineligible to play for Team Europe in the Ryder Cup. Last fall, McIlroy went 2-3-0 as part of the Euro team that cruised to a 17 1/2-10 1/2 win over the American team in the Ryder Cup near Paris.

McIlroy played 18 events on the PGA Tour in 2018, and he snapped an 18-month winless stretch by capturing the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He finished 13th in the season-long FedEx Cup standings.

“A lot of guys have this sort of loyalty to the European Tour, which is great,” McIlroy said. “But it’s not as if we all got handed starts; you’ve got to qualify to get on.

“I’m still going to play in Europe and (the fans) are still going to see me play — maybe not as regularly as it used to be — but that’s just a product of where the global schedule is right now and where my life is right now.”

He added of the difference between the tours: “It’s so one-sided. 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?”

—Field Level Media

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