Rory McIlroy will remain a European Tour member in 2019 after coming to an agreement that satisfies his priorities and appeases European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.
McIlroy had said in November 2018 that he would likely surrender European Tour membership for 2019, taking it back in 2020. However, under Ryder Cup guidelines, no European Tour member who seeks to become captain can willingly surrender their membership at any time in their career. That created a standoff of sorts for the Ulsterman, who has prioritized playing on the PGA Tour and spending time stateside with his wife Erica and her family at points through the year.
Eventually, McIlroy reneged on his initial threat, suggesting he would retain European Tour membership but wasn't entirely certain how he would satisfy the tour's playing requirements. Members must compete in four European Tour-sanctioned events outside the majors and the World Golf Championships, and, as McIlroy said ahead of the BMW PGA Championship, they must play another two events if they skip their national open. McIlroy did that in 2019, choosing to spend the Independence Day weekend in the States with his wife and in-laws. In a conversation with Pelley, McIlroy said the two-event penalty would preclude him from satisfying the membership requirements.
“The rule was that you have to play an extra two events if you don't play your home open,” said McIlroy. “Pelley and I sat down and I said, ‘Keith, I can't possibly do that.’”
Pelley countered with asking McIlroy to play in three Rolex Series events on the calendar, marking the biggest European Tour-operated events outside the majors and WGCs. McIlroy was on board.
“I said, ‘Done, 100 percent done.’ Once we had that conversation, it was totally fine,” McIlroy said, having already played one Rolex Series event in the Scottish Open.
Now Rory McIlroy's 2019 schedule is finally set through to the end of the year. McIlroy is playing this week at the BMW PGA Championship, a Rolex Series event, and next week in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which he has typically played with his father Gerry as the amateur partner in the pro-am event. He will play on the PGA Tour in October in Japan at the inaugural Zozo Championship and in a made-for-TV skins game that same week, competing against Tiger Woods, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama. He will then compete in the season-ending Rolex Series event, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November, before taking off until sometime in January 2020.
McIlroy has also agreed to play in the 2020 Irish Open. The Ulsterman suggested an Independence Day date would conflict with family obligations, and a July date may conflict with the World Golf Championships event in Memphis played this year in July. (Next year, it's been moved to accommodate the 2020 Olympic golf tournament in Tokyo.)
"No matter where or when it is scheduled, it wouldn't be ideal for it to clash with the World Golf Championship," said McIlroy, according to BBC Northern Ireland. "If it's that May date they are contemplating I will be back for it."