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The Loop

It's 'clear' Rory McIlroy is defecting from Europe to play for the United States at the 2020 Ryder Cup

September 30, 2019
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Mark Runnacles

Rory McIlroy and George Costanza are characters not often associated. Conversely, 2019 has already bestowed a curious set of consortiums: Matt Kuchar and caddies, Bryson DeChambeau and clocks, Brooks Koepka and nudity. Against this backdrop, the McIlroy-Costanza pairing makes too much sense.

Which explains why the Ulsterman has been doing a spot-on Costanza impersonation, trying his best to get fired from one team in order to join another.

It is "clear," is it not? The passive-aggressiveness, the pot shots, the wavering commitment … Rory McIlroy wants to renounce his European ties in order to play for the United States at the 2020 Ryder Cup.

We can hear the gravy-muffled guffawing from the British press on this side of the Atlantic. Sure, ascribe McIlroy's latest round of haymakers—announcing his disappointment with European Tour's course setups—as post-round frustrations. That is failing to see the forest for the trees. Well, if England had any trees left, which it does not. The truth runs to a grander design, which ends with McIlroy wearing red, white and blue in Wisconsin exactly one year from now.

A "scheme" that is more than a decade in the making, beginning in 2009 when he called the Ryder Cup an exhibition. This caused an uproar and forced then-Euro captain Colin Montgomerie to respond, "It is not an exhibition and it never will be. It's a very unique, special event." Which is what you'd expect from someone without a major.

McIlroy backtracked, but it was would not be the last time he took a Mack truck over all the European golf cognoscenti holds dear. In 2011, he ridiculed the Open Championship, saying "I'm not a fan of golf tournaments that are predicted so much by the weather." Forget that he was right (there's a reason the major has the highest OWGR average winner); that McIlroy had the audacity to defame the claret jug caused the strokes of a dozen R&A septuagenarians. And he almost no-showed the final day of the 2012 Ryder Cup, but quickly realized that was too brazen, too fast. The plan needed longer to marinate.

Which is why he went relatively quiet, at least in regards to napalming his own, after Medinah. But the seeds were there. Moved from Northern Ireland to Florida in 2013. Passed on playing in the Olympics in 2016, married an American woman in 2017, opted out of hosting the Irish Open in 2018.

Over the past year, McIlroy has put the design into full force. He played a more American-centric schedule, which he will do again in 2020. Euro Tour commissioner Keith Pelley had to beg McIlroy to take up European Tour membership, which McIlroy accepted only because his wife told him to. He skipped the Irish Open and might not appear next year because ... he wants to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Better yet, the mechanics for a "switch" are in place. If McIlroy doesn't renew European Tour membership next year, he'll be ineligible for the European Team. His is already well down the path toward American citizenship with five years of residence in the U.S. and three years of marriage to an American. A switch of flags is far from unheard of: The list of athletes representing multiple countries in international games has its own Wikipedia page. By the way, the European Tour is well aware of this plan, and already has a contingency in place. As fellow writer Garrett Morrison pointed out, why else would they extend a lifetime membership to Patrick Reed?


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Because the thing is, there is no such thing as Fourth of July celebrations. It's a weekend where you go to your backyard, grill, drink and light some shit on fire. Basically, your normal SEC tailgate. That was McIlroy telegraphing his move. Alas, the Brits were blissfully unaware since confronting a holiday that celebrates an Independence that triggered their fall from world power to their current standing is a tough swallow. (True, the Colonies were bailed out of the Revolution thanks to the French, but now is no time for facts.)

So Rory had to do what every villain does in every movie, which is explain his motive with a rhetorical question.

“I think [Erica, Rory's wife] sort of said to me, What are you trying to do? or What sort of point are you trying to make?” McIlroy said at the BMW PGA Championship—the European Tour’s flagship event—in September.

Yes, what is he doing? After all, McIlroy is the Chosen One throughout Europe; in America, he is the One, depending on the week. Ryder Cup players are treated like gods in Europe; here, they are forgotten by Tuesday. Case in point: Precisely three people realize J.B. Holmes is the only player with Phil Mickelson to be on both winning U.S. teams this century, and Holmes ain't one of the three. And last we checked, the Europeans have owned the Americans when it comes to the biennial match. Like the idea that Costanza would want to leave the Yankees for the freaking New York Mets, why trade all that for so little?

Fair questions, but questions of mere mortals, which McIlroy—after watching the things he can do with a golf ball—is decidedly not.

Perhaps he's seen the future, understanding the only way the Ryder Cup remains competitive is switching allegiances. Maybe McIlroy is from the future, sent to reignite war between the United States and Europe. You could posit McIlroy has watched one too many episodes of "Billions," a show where people risk everything, to destroy everything, merely because they feel like it.

Whatever is spurring the icy rapport between Rory and the Euro brass remains unclear. Where it's going, not so much. As this seemingly outlandish conspiracy theory plays out, the Americans will win the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits one year from now. And when you see McIlroy spraying champagne with Old Glory draped around his shoulders, don't say with didn't "warn" you.