Rory McIlroy is focusing on the PGA Tour in 2019, and his schedule will reflect an emphasis on the majors.
The old approach: Get paid big appearance money to play in the European Tour’s Desert Swing to start the year in January and early February, then come to the United States for a stop or two of the West Coast Swing.
He’s had enough of easing his way into the American docket, finding himself fighting an uphill battle in the FedEx Cup when he starts the PGA Tour portion of his schedule nearly four months into the wraparound season.
The four-time major winner wants to play against the best fields, for the most money and the most world-ranking points. And, of course, he wants to end a four-plus-year drought in the majors — a drought that began after he won back-to-back majors to end 2014.
“You go to Europe and get paid a nice amount of money to start the year,” McIlroy said Wednesday ahead of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he is making his debut at nearly 30 years old.
“I’ve done that for a decade. I want to switch it up. I’ve done it for years, so I may as well do something a little different.”
McIlroy said he will play the week before several majors in 2019, if not all four. That brings into play, perhaps, the Texas Open, the Byron Nelson and the Canadian Open, perhaps at the expense of other events he’s played in the past.
No matter the schedule he chooses, McIlroy feels the competitive juices more taking on the PGA Tour’s best, who happen to be higher ranked than most of the European Tour stalwarts.
“I want to play against the best players in the world,” he said. “I get a buzz from that. I’d much rather go down the stretch against Justin Thomas or Dustin Johnson. I’m not putting anyone down in Europe, but the depths of the field and everything is just that bit better over here. It’s what everyone is striving for. It’s why Francesco Molinari is here this week. It’s where it’s heading.”
McIlroy is perhaps overstating the trend. Top Euros have been jumping to play more — or completely — in the United States for a couple of decades. But McIlroy feels, a dozen years into his pro career, it’s time to play for himself instead of someone or something else.