Rory McIlroy will be making his first career start at the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Thursday in Hawaii. Opening his season on the PGA Tour is no small change for the World No. 8 and he made his intentions and feelings clear when he spoke about his commitment to the PGA Tour earlier this week.
An offseason of back-and-forth speculation as it pertained to the Northern Irishman’s European Tour participation was once again put into place by the 4-time major champion in a conversation with GolfDigest.com’s Dave Shedlowski, which included a not-so-subtle dig at McIlroy’s home tour.
“The ultimate goal is (the PGA Tour),” McIlroy said. “The European Tour is a stepping stone. That’s the truth. The European Tour is a stepping stone. That’s the way it is. It’s tough. I still want to support the European Tour, and I talk about this loyalty thing with Europe, (but) it’s not as though I’m just starting out and jumping ship. I’ve done my time. I’ve done everything I feel like I need to do to say OK, I’m going to make my own decisions and do what I want.
“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?”
McIlroy explained that at this point in his life, the appearance fees that he gets paid early in the season are nice, but they come at the cost of having to play catch-up when he gets over to America a few months into the calendar year.
“I’ve always been trying to split my time and this year, I’m sick of always showing up in Florida 100th in the FedEx Cup,” he said. “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.
“You go to Europe and get paid a nice amount of money to start the year. I want to switch it up. I’ve done it for 11 years so I may as well do something a little different.”
Prepare to see more of Rory McIlroy on the PGA Tour in 2019.
The four-time major champion will shift his focus towards the U.S. tour “where you play for more money.” 👀https://t.co/bcIKQd071y
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) January 2, 2019
What will also be different this year for McIlroy is he has committed to playing the week before every major championship, a strategy he has toyed with in the past, but hasn’t committed to. As such, McIlroy will be Stateside for most of the first half of the year before heading over to Europe for the run-up to the Open Championship in July.
McIlroy has made a commitment to the European Masters in Switzerland the week following the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
With other big events taking place on European soil after the PGA Tour season wraps up — BMW PGA Championship, Alfred Dunhill Links, Spanish Open, French Open and the Race to Dubai events — McIlroy can spend much of his early season concentrating on the PGA Tour while fulfilling his duties as a European Tour member from September through November.