Rory McIlroy said in November he intended to give up his European Tour membership for 2019, choosing instead to focus on playing the PGA Tour and its best events. McIlroy said he would resume his European Tour membership in 2020, of course, so he could be eligible to play on the European Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits.
However, the European Tour's membership guidelines suggested McIlroy might never be able to become Ryder Cup captain were he to give up his status. Explicit language in membership rules said any player who allowed their European Tour membership to lapse wouldn't be allowed to become a captain in the future.
Of course, it being Rory McIlroy in question, that rule would probably be thrown out the window when the time came. Right? Well, that wasn't so certain.
That doubt no longer matters, though, as McIlroy has reportedly agreed to maintain European Tour membership in 2019 after all.
Why did he change his mind?
According to the Irish Mirror, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley flew to Northern Ireland to meet directly with McIlroy and implore him to remain a European Tour member in 2019. Pelley was apparently convincing, as McIlroy is said to have changed his mind.
In truth, the bar for maintaining European Tour membership is low. A player needs to compete in four European Tour-sanctioned events outside of the majors and the World Golf Championships. With the changes to the PGA Tour schedule and the PGA of America moving the PGA Championship to May, several of the European Tour's most lucrative events have been shifted to the fall to take the spotlight after the PGA Tour season ends in August.
Which events McIlroy will play
When McIlroy announced his intention at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November, he had already committed to the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and the Omega European Masters. McIlroy would need two more events to maintain his status, and it's reasonable to assume he would be in the top 60 and eligible for the season finale in the United Arab Emirates. The Ulsterman would need one more tournament, then, to satisfy the requirement. The Mirror report suggests the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, which McIlroy hosted until this year, and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, where McIlroy has a home, could be options.