Last November Rory McIlroy threw a curveball at European Tour CEO and commissioner Keith Pelley, telling reporters at the circuit's season-ending event in Dubai that he planned on spending most of the 2019 season in the United States. The Ulsterman remarked he desired to compete against the world's best on a more consistent basis, an aspiration the PGA Tour would facilitate. When asked if that endeavor meant sacrificing his membership on the European Tour, the now-30-year-old responded in the affirmative.
“Everyone has to look out for themselves,” the four-time major winner said. “And next year, I’m looking out for me.”
More than 65 percent of the way through the regular season, McIlroy has been true to his word, making 10 appearances on the PGA Tour. A strategy that has paid dividends, posting eight top 10s in those starts, highlighted by a victory at the Players Championship.
As one can imagine, McIlroy's comments caused panic at Wentworth, with Euro Tour officials aghast the face of their tour would discredit their circuit without second thought. Pelley, head of the Euro Tour since 2015, made an emergency flight to Belfast, pleading with McIlroy to reconsider. In December, the Irish Mirror reported McIlroy relented, committing to Pelley that we would make the minimum amount of starts in 2019 to keep his European Tour membership.
According to the Independent and the Daily Express, McIlroy's team finally filed for membership before the Euro Tour's May 1 deadline last week. However, according to multiple sources, because McIlroy waited to re-up, co-sanctioned events like the WGCs, along with the Masters, will not factor into his Race to Dubai points.
As for when McIlroy will make a Euro Tour start, officials for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open—a tournament McIlroy previously hosted—are skeptical he'll play. The most likely debut will be at the Scottish Open (held this year at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick), a week before the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. McIlroy is also expected to play at the Euro Tour's flagship event BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in the fall.
McIlroy had risked his future Ryder Cup captaincy had he not joined this year, although most insiders believed the Euro Tour would have waved this stipulation.
McIlroy be enter next week's PGA Championship as one of the Wanamaker favorites at 12-1. He is a two-time winner at the event.