Will Rory McIlroy don his Santa Claus outfit and deliver the European Tour the gift it desperately desires?
That is the big question heading into Festive Season as the golf world wonders whether Rory McIlroy sticks to his guns and decides not to rejoin the European Tour in 2019.
Reports are surfacing European Tour CEO Keith Pelley flew recently to Belfast to have ‘crisis’ talks with McIlroy and get him to change his mind.
The four-time Major winning McIlroy shocked most last month at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai by revealing he was contemplating not renewing his European Tour membership for the New Year.
McIlroy indicated it would be a move to focus more on winning Majors, suggesting he plays best in the Majors when he competes the week before.
The news clearly ruffled the likes of 2019 Irish Open host Paul McGinley as as well as Irish fans across the country at the suggestion McIlroy would skip his own national Open and instead sit out that week to tee-up in the following week’s Scottish Open.
Indeed, the news sent shockwaves all the way from Dubai to Lahinch.
As McGinley rightfully pointed out, and as Pelley explained to Irish Golfer Magazine last fortnight in the Bahamas when Pelley competed in the Hero World Challenge Pro-Am, what McIlroy is seemingly not aware of is the fact that if he does not rejoin the European Tour he will be ineligible under the current rules from ‘ever’ being a European Ryder Cup Captain.
“There are Ryder Cup captaincy implications should he (McIlroy) not take-up European Tour membership even though he’s not thinking of Ryder Cup captaincy in the very near future,” said Pelley when I spoke to him in the Bahamas.
And when Pelley was quizzed if McIlroy should not take-up membership would that ruin the honour in years to come of being a European Captain, Pelley answered: “Well, that’s what the rules state right now”.
The likes of Colin Montgomerie and Justin Rose have backed McIlroy’s move not to rejoin the European Tour declaring McIlroy should focus on his career and go out and strive to win more Majors. In a nutshell they were saying to McIlroy to forget about European Tour membership.
But take a step backwards for a second. What are we talking about here?
The changes introduced in September last year to Ryder Cup qualification stated the European Tour now only required players to compete in four European Tour-specific events to maintain status, not counting the majors and World Golf Championships.
How difficult can that be?
Since moving to the PGA Tour full-time in 2011 McIlroy’s won Majors and also had no trouble playing four ‘regular’ European Tour events:-
2011 – Won US Open – Contested 10 ‘regular’ European Tour events
2012 – Won PGA Championship – Played in 6 ‘regular’ European Tour events
2013 – No Majors – Played in 6 ‘regular European Tour events
2014 – Won The Open, WGC – Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in three events running – Played in 7 ‘regular’ European Tour events
2015 – Won WGC – Cadillac Championship – Played in 6 ‘regular’ European Tour events
2016 – Finished 4th WGC – Dell Match-Play & T5th The Open – Played in 5 ‘regular’ European Tour events
2017 – Finished 4th The Open, 5th PGA Championship – Played in 5 ‘regular’ European Tour events
2018 – Joint runner-up The Open, T5th in the Masters – Played in 6 ‘regular’ European Tour events.
Bizarrely, with McIlroy not to compete in the Middle East for a first time in his career and also suggesting he is not going to contest the Irish Open it means he can still play four ‘regular’ European Tour events in 2019 given he confirmed he is appeasing sponsor Omega by adding the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.
We know McIlroy will be contesting the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and the Omega European Masters as well so he only has to then contest two of the following, either the BMW PGA Championship, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship or the Nedbank Challenge and if he is a member of the Tour, he would easily qualify for the DP World Tour Championship.
And while he is not likely to be considered a potential European Ryder Cup Captain to at least 2034 or 2036 why spoil that dream in 2019?
A better question to pose is, Does McIlroy want to eventually end his career ala Sandy Lyle, Mark O’Meara, Andy North, John Daly or Lee Janzen and be the winner of multiple Majors but never enjoy the honour and esteem of being selected as a a Ryder Cup Captain?