Ready to Return

Rory McIlroy is planning to play A LOT when the PGA Tour starts up again

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Sam Greenwood

Rory McIlroy acknowledges the crowd during the final round of the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

When the PGA Tour restarts its 2019-’20 season next month, the prevailing thought is that tournament fields will be flush with high-ranking tour pros anxious to compete again after a nearly three-month layoff. And if you listen to the highest ranked player of them all, Rory McIlroy, there’s little reason to doubt the presumption.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but for me personally, I just want to get back out and play,” McIlroy said on Wednesday during a conference call ahead of this weekend’s TaylorMade Driving Relief charity event. Just how eager is the World No. 1 to play again? Enough to plan on entering the tour’s first three scheduled events: the Charles Schwab Challenge (June 11-14), RBC Heritage (June 18-21) and the Travelers Championship (June 25-28).

“I miss the competition,” McIlroy said. “I miss the buzz of getting into contention and playing in those last few groups on a Sunday and really feeling that. I also miss the locker room. I miss people. I miss being around people. I miss the … I miss the banter that goes on in the locker rooms and the camaraderie that people don’t see.”

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Many of those things, however, will be limited when the season officially resumes. The PGA Tour outlined a comprehensive health and safety plan on Wednesday that implements various social-distancing practices that would limit interaction with players outside the ropes. Dining at the course will be scaled back.

While a tour event will look and feel rather different, McIlroy sounded appreciative of the measures being taken and believes they will ensure the safety of those in and around the tournaments.

“I think if everyone follows the guidelines and does the right thing, I see no reason why you wouldn’t be comfortable with the logistics of getting to an event and from,” McIlroy said. “I believe the PGA Tour has a very robust policy in place, and if they can execute it, I feel comfortable getting back out there and playing and traveling.

McIlroy will have to hope that he got plenty of rest during the long break. If the season unfolds as currently planned, the game’s elite will be playing several of golf’s most prestigious events in a short window of time. On the schedule for August and September are the PGA Championship, the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the U.S. Open and the Ryder Cup.

“It looks as if things could definitely be coming thick and fast once we get into the late summer and into the fall,” McIlroy said. “You have to be ready to go. You know, stay sharp. Stay ready. You know, I sort of joked a little bit; at the start of this whole thing saying, ‘well, guys wanted an off-season. Well, now's your off-season.’ It’s pedal to the metal to the end of the year to try to get as much golf in as possible.”

Given that, McIlroy sees this weekend’s competition as a mental and physical trigger to begin to formally work his way back into game shape. On Sunday, he’ll team with Dustin Johnson in a 18-hole, skins-game match against the team of Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla. The event will raise upwards of $4 million for COVID-19 relief efforts, including the American Nurses Foundation and the CDC Foundation.

“I think once we play this event on Sunday at Seminole,” McIlroy said, “then I can turn my attention to maybe, you know, focusing on the restart of the PGA Tour season and really getting back into it then.”