PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- When the PGA Tour instituted a new rule beginning this season that requires players who didn’t have at least 25 starts the previous season to add a tournament they hadn’t played in the last four years, the idea was to get players to move around and help quell strength-of-field concerns.
Without much consternation from the players -- a collective group of independent contractors who can otherwise pick and choose mostly when and where they play -- it seems to be working.
To that end, GolfDigest.com has learned that World No. 3 and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy has committed to this year’s Travelers Championship, an event the 28-year-old Northern Irishman has never played in his nine years on the PGA Tour. An announcement is expected Friday.
Last fall, McIlroy, who also splits time on the European Tour, indicated he would likely add one of two Texas stops (the AT&T Byron Nelson or Dean & DeLuca Invitational), or the long-time Connecticut event. With the Travelers back to its normal date the week following the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, and McIlroy headed east anyway as he makes his way across the pond to the Irish Open and Open Championship, the latter made sense.
Players who don’t meet the new requirement, meanwhile, could be subject to a “major penalty,” which under the Tour’s guidelines would be a fine of $20,000 or more, or face possible suspension. Lifetime or veteran members who are at least 45 years old, however, are exempt from the rule.
McIlroy, who typically plays around 18 PGA Tour events a year, will be making his first start anywhere since mid-January at next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship after suffering a fractured rib while equipment testing in the offseason.