Rory McIlroy has officially ruled out all thoughts of contesting next month’s Dubai Duty Free Open at the Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort in Ballymena.
McIlroy also declared he intends staying Stateside right up to and including the New Year which will now see him not play any regular European Tour events in this terrible COVID-19 hit year.
McIlroy confirmed his ‘staying at home’ intentions ahead of teeing-up in the Northern Trust, the opening event of the three-tournament FedEx Cup ‘Play-Off’ Series being played just to the south of Boston.
The four-time major winner had hinted some weeks back he may not elect to return home but that was prior to European Tour news last week Ireland’s premier golfing event would be a ‘no spectator’ affair, with the event being moved from the Mt. Juliet course to Galgorm, with McIlroy’s decision totally understandable amid these continuing uncertain times
“I’m planning to remain in the States and I just don’t see myself travelling internationally for a while,” he said.
“I’m playing four of the next five events here in the U.S. with the last week being a Major Championship (Sep 14th-17th U.S. Open).
“My decision might be different if the Irish Open was not behind closed doors and there could be fans present and the like but seeing it will be behind closed doors it will not be an Irish Open like what we’ve been used to it being, like the last few years with terrific prize funds and everything.
“It’s not just that, I really just want to spend time at home and not travel too much the next few months.”
Also helping McIlroy’s decision not to travel is the likelihood of the PGA Tour moving a number of the October 2020/21 Tour events from places such as Mississippi, Nevada and the CJ Cup in South Korea to the east coast of the States.
“That would suit me if they were to do that; I think it’s wonderful, not just — I mean, I don’t want to diminish the tournaments but it’s a gap-filler, right,” he said.
“You play the U.S. Open, you play those couple on the West Coast and then you play the Masters. That sounds like a wonderful fall schedule to me.
McIlroy will tee-up on this week’s host TPC Boston course, located just a 15-minute drive from Gillette Stadium, home ground to the NFLs New England Patriots, strangely looking for a first victory of 2020.
He did of course win last November’s WGC – HSBC Champions event in Shanghai but the closest he’s come to victory in 2020 proper was third in January’s Farmers Insurance Open, his first event of the New Year.
However, McIlroy will tee-up on a course where he knows how to win, and in fact TPC Boston is one of three PGA Tour venues where he’s won twice in his 18 PGA Tour winning career.
He won a then fifth PGA Tour career title in capturing the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship and four years later grabbed a then 12th PGA Tour trophy in coming from six shots behind at the start of the final round, and picking-up six birdies to win by two from England’s Paul Casey.
“It’s always helpful going back to places where you’ve won and had good history,” he said.
“That was sort of a theme going into Harding Park. I had won there before and feeling good. Sometimes it doesn’t translate into having a chance to win a golf tournament.
“The most important thing is executing the shots right, and my execution over the last few weeks hasn’t been as good as it’s needed to be, and it doesn’t matter how good you’ve played on a certain golf course before.
“If you’re not hitting the shots the way you want then, you know, it’s not going to happen. You’re not going to have a chance. It is nice to be back to Boston. We missed it last year.
“It’s always nice to get back to familiar surroundings.”
Joining McIlroy are fellow Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry.
Lowry was among three players from last week’s ‘regular season’ ending Wyndham Championship to have come from outside the leading 125 on the money list last week and leave the Sedgefield course inside the 125.
In Lowry’s case it was an anxious Sunday final round wait before confirmation of his 122nd place standing and it will be only a second time he’s made the lucrative ‘Play-Off’s’ while he’s also making his debut on TPC Boston.
And Lowry’s been shown no favours as the Open Champion teeing-up in the last group of the day, as a two-ball alongside England’s 123rd FedEx Cup ranked Tom Lewis.
Four-time Major winning Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from this week’s TPC Boston event and effectively ended his year.
Koepka had missed the cut in last week’s Wyndham Championship citing he was ‘struggling with issues down his left side’.
His withdrawal shocked McIlroy who was unaware of the American’s withdrawal.
“I didn’t even know that he pulled out,” said McIlroy.
“It’s tough. Brooks is one of the biggest names in the game. We’ve all seen his physical struggles since last year. He had the knee injury and he slipped in Korea and he sort of struggled with it ever since. It’s maybe never a good time, but it’s a better time than sort of any other time to get it right.
“It’s best then to take a few weeks off. Try to get himself ready for the U.S. Open, and then the Masters coming up, as well.
“It’s probably smart. He’s just played six or seven weeks in a row, which takes a toll on your body anyway, but if you’re struggling with an injury, even more so.
“So, I think it’s smart on his part to do that and hopefully comes back healthy and comes back ready to play.”
IRISH TEE TIMES (Irish Time +5 hours ahead)
Rory McIlroy – 1.15pm
Graeme McDowell – 6.39pm
Shane Lowry – 6.50pm