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McIlroy sets sail for the States

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Iain Carter | 14:14 UK time, Thursday, 4 August 2011

Already golf’s hottest property, Rory McIlroy has made himself an even more prized asset by indicating that he plans to rejoin the PGA Tour from next year.

While America celebrates the forthcoming return of the runaway winner of their national championship, Europe sweats to find out which tournaments McIlroy will cut to accommodate the extra demands in the United States.

Given the transatlantic calendar congestion that exists at certain times of the year there is the unpalatable prospect of McIlroy missing high-profile events in Europe in his quest to be at his best for the major championships.

Cartwheels of delight were turned at PGA Tour headquarters in Florida because the sunshine state can prepare for the world’s most exciting golfing talent to take up residence there.


Rory McIlroy is set to play on the US PGA Tour after one-year absence. PHOTO: GETTY

McIlroy’s indication that he will return to the US fold is a massive boost for the American tour, especially as it is in the midst of re-negotiating its main television contracts.

To embark on the much trumpeted end of season play-off series without the record-breaking winner of the US Open has been an uncomfortable prospect for the PGA Tour, but that won’t be an issue for them from next year.

So what are the implications for McIlroy’s home tour in Europe and how might his global schedule shape up in 2012?

Given that the 22-year-old has identified that he is at his best “when I’m fresh”, the process of picking his events while trying to fulfill the demands of separate tours is going to be fascinating.

McIlroy will be required to play fifteen tournaments on the PGA Tour.

This year he is playing ten and this shortfall would be made up by competing in May’s Players’ Championship and, assuming he performs to expectation, the four season ending play-off events that culminate in the Tour Championship.

These events combined with the four majors, three World Golf Championships (WGC) and the three PGA Tour events already in his schedule - Palm Beach, Quail Hollow and Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial tournament - would be enough to satisfy PGA Tour membership requirements.

The difficulty comes with fitting in the thirteen events that have to be played for membership of the European Tour.

The majors and WGCs count on both calendars with November's Shanghai event (the fourth World Golf Championships tournament) also in the mix.

So that means McIlroy will have to find a minimum of five tournaments that count on the European calendar. This is by no means impossible but the question is which events will he play and more pertinently skip?

The key time is the spring and the period between April’s Masters and his US Open defence in June.

He will be obliged to compete in the Players’ Championship in May, he also likes Quail Hollow and Nicklaus has become something of a mentor so the early June date for Memorial is likely to stay in McIlroy’s diary as well.

On that basis it is conceivable that he could end up playing four weeks in a row from the Players’ Championship. The week after it is likely to be the World Matchplay in Spain, followed by the flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth and then back to America for the Memorial.

It would be astonishing if McIlroy were to choose to embark on such a demanding run in the build up to the defence of his first major title.

He likes to stay energised and can be prone to burn out, so might he miss the matchplay or even the PGA?

This is why you can bet your bottom Euro that Tour bosses and promoters are on full alert.

The autumn is another important period, especially if McIlroy goes the full distance in the PGA Tour play-offs and plays for Europe in the Ryder Cup. But the imperative for freshness is not as great as earlier in the year because the major titles have been decided by then. Plenty of his rivals are facing exactly the same issues.

In the meantime the lad from Northern Ireland is embarking on some serious house hunting in Florida. He can’t be blamed for wanting another crack at America, especially as two of his three wins to date have come in Uncle Sam’s backyard.

This is no great about-turn either, McIlroy is still finding what works best for him at what is still a very early stage in his career. Refreshingly he is open, honest and up front and while these traits occasionally generate adverse headlines, they add massively to the credit side of his ledger.

McIlroy’s greatest challenge is going to be finding a schedule that suits him best. Tour bosses, especially this side of the pond, are left to hope that their best interests coincide with his.




  • Comment number 1.

    Chasing the moolah...

    The young man seems all over the place at the moment...just who is advising him?

  • Comment number 2.

    There is more to this than golfing reasons. There are certain rumours that he is now seeing caroline wozniacki a tennis star based in the US, the worst kept secret apparrently! This surely must have influanced his decision to be based there again.

    For golfing reasons - take a leaf out of Westwoods book. You can rise to the top on the European tour regardless of home pressure - guess the British tennis players are less appealing though! ;)

  • Comment number 3.

    Is it just me or is mcilroy starting to annoy anyone else out there? First his comments at the open which not surprisingly have been followed by what appears to be everything bar a press statement confirming his intention to base himself mostly stateside. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a few new logo's on his clothing from next year, even less surprised if they were large American corporations. I can only laugh now at the European tour, who only last week made him (alongside a rather more worthy Darren Clarke) lifetime members of the European tour!

  • Comment number 4.

    The weather issue is a convenient explanation but let's face it, he's just going over to be with CW. Last year he said he was playing the European Tour because when he was playing the end-of-season Fed-ex and pre-fed-ex comps, he wished he was at home (playing the European Open at Crans).

    There are also lost of other good reasons to be in USA; he gets on well with Graeme McDowell who is commited to the PGA tour and he DOES play better in good weather. But young man with raging loins and CW on his doorstep, I'd say that's 50% of the reason.

  • Comment number 5.

    Jeez, there is so much being written about McIlroy at the minute, its not his fault though, everybody just keeps writing stories about every little thing he does, and if he ever says anything or is angry which is a human emotion lets not forget, everybody starts questioning him. I am so glad a great young golfer like McIlroy isn't another one of these robots. You ask them a question and you get the same bloody clich├ęs over and over again, one shot at a time, I just want to play well and the rest will take care of itself etc etc. Leave the kid alone, no wonder he wants to leave. Of course he wants to play in US, he has a high ball flight and that suits the US tour more than it does the European, he was always going to get a house in the US anyway, even if he wasn't with CW, but if she is part of the reason he is moving he could do a lot worse. He isn't exactly a looker.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'd say this is probably the right decision for him; McIlroy strikes me as a US tour type of guy and I think he'll win a ton of tournaments over there.

  • Comment number 7.

    Why does everyone here keep saying that Caroline Wozniaki is based in the US? She is based in Monaco.

  • Comment number 8.

    Iain ... I wonder if you can answer a question for me ... and this may be a rather cynical one!!

    Does the return of Tiger Woods to the US Tour this week and the imminent contract negotiations with TV sit slightly uneasy with you?

    Revenue has been down for the TV stations in the past 12 to 18 months when Tiger has not been playing and it does seem a rather large coincidence that the return of Tiger does coincide.

    On another note, I know that obviously Tiger is a massive draw to American / EU golf fans ... but why do certain players who are say in the top 10 rarely get a mention unless they are winning / at the top of the leaderboard in events? For example Steve Stricker is one of the best golfers in the world and has been since his comeback but is rarely featured even with the consistant top tens he has ... is this due to the personality of the player? That he doesn't tweet, is not confrontational etc.?? Or that his management team is not helping things along when it comes to apperances on TV during tournaments???

  • Comment number 9.

    I have to agree with Tom Ruhrmund here - I was just watching sky sports review of yesterdays play. They had highlights of Woods', Clarke's. Mcilroy's, Days, Scott's - even Justin Rose (Who shot a mediocre 1 over) rounds. Howver the current No.1 and No.2 in the world - who both shot under par, didn't even get a mention. You wouldn't even know that they were playing!

    It seems to me that our media would rather report on how Woods or Mcilroy did a rather smelly fart this morning than talk about the other in-form players!

  • Comment number 10.

    andyting, the US media ia no different to ours we focus on our guys when they are playing over here in the Open so thas the way it is and Macca is the flavour of the month..hes just about holding his head up with all thsi new found media hype. next year will be better when he truely gets used to it all for now he will struggle thru the rest of the year me thinks. love to see westwood win next week good tune up this week for the PGA..

  • Comment number 11.

    Can't blame Rory for making his own decisions.

    Facts are he does have better results in the states, so why play tournaments in Europe that don't suit him?

    Also, if he is seeing CW, it makes sense to live in the states - although Tennis does have a pretty big calendar in Europe - but I guess the Euro Tour has a lot of Asian and African events.

    Anyways, surely he isn't going to play better if he is unhappy in his personal life, so if he has a relationship with CW, then makes sense to see her during his down time.

    I have no problem with Rory saying what he thinks, especially in post-round interviews. That's real life, and is refreshing from the usual fully guarded comments most players make.

    Only issue is if Rory has a poor season next year, surely it will be much more difficult to qualify for the Ryder Cup when he isn't playing as many European Tour events. Playing the whole season in Europe is a lot easier to qualify than relying on the world ranking.

    Just wonder how he will feel if he is a couple of places short and relying on a captains pick when other guys in similar form have coasted on through their European ranking.

  • Comment number 12.

    Please, please tell your golf correspondents that "card" is not a verb!

  • Comment number 13.

    Rory will have no problems achieving the required number of events on each tour.

    In Europe he will play in the Middle East, Dubai and Abu Dhabi in January / February. He will probably make the Dunhill Links as well. With the Irish Open and PGA he will make up the numbers without trouble. He also enjoys Hong Kong and will play in the final Race to Dubai event. I pitch for 24 events next year, 16 on each tour schedule.
    I look forward to seeing a change in the US Tour requirement too which will make it easier, possibly even a Fedex Cup part opt out.

    The Fedex Cup was the issue in 2010, but equally he does enjoy some of the European events - Switzerland in particular and the Ryder Cup plays a part.

  • Comment number 14.

    I can't get worked up about the Tour rivalry because the top players can effectively choose which tournaments they want to play anyway. I'm a big fan of Lee Westwood but am not going to fly to a "European" crowdless event in Dubai or wherever. It just means that when the top guys are on the mainland we have to go watch. The days of Langer at Fulford or Faldo at Walton are long gone. Perhaps the fairest thing would be to declare Players and PGA Wentworth joint events and spread the WGCs out to Africa and Australia. Then you'd have the worldwide tour for the top players that reflects the worldwide nature of the modern game.

  • Comment number 15.

    Well I think it's a slap in the face for the European Tour and O'Grady. Just a week after receiving the tour lifetime membership award (which IMO should never have been awarded to someone of his age) and saying "it's a great honour" he "loves the European Tour" it's then, right, I'm off to the PGA Tour!

    This all comes less than a year after his declaring he wanted to come back from America as it wasn't for him, he wanted to be where he was most comfortable.....ON EUROPEAN TOUR!

    I maybe cynical here, but I think he had a coversation with O'Grady and said he was going back to the PGA, was worrying about keeping his membership to the European Tour, so they gave him lifetime membership to get around it. Joke of an award, it should be an award given to a player towards the end of latter stages of his career (e.g. Darren Clarke), after achieving so much, not at the beginning of a career. He'll be in the hall of fame next!

  • Comment number 16.

    Sorry, Iain, McIlroy has lifetime membership of the European Tour so doesn't need to play minimum events to retain membership surely? Or have I got that wrong?

  • Comment number 17.

    Rory is dead right to move to the US again...he came back cos he was missing Holly and home but now he has grown up a little more and is single so apart from the bad weather and less prize money over here there isnt a lot to stay for.

    Heck id be there in a heart beat and id start taking new sponsorships for more money...isnt that the whole idea of being a professional.

  • Comment number 18.

    May i say i applaud Rory's honesty about links golf. Ive played most Open courses and watched many Opens at places like St Andrews and seen Tiger rip it apart because the weather was benign. Its only tough in bad weather and anyway a lottery of where the shot finishes. Way past time to have Opens on top class inland courses i think and please spare me the crowd excuse.
    Rory will get support and respect in America, not snide and sneaky interference from the gutter press as he does here. Good luck to him

  • Comment number 19.

    Iain Carter wrote "The difficulty comes with fitting in the thirteen events that have to be played for membership of the European Tour."

    McIlroy has lifetime membership of the European Tour (far too soon, might I add), therefore he doesn't need to play a minimum number of events?

    This is probably a major factor in his decision to return to America. Can't say I blame him, his game suits the courses there. Westwood had the same issues, he too was awarded lifetime membership in Feb 11.

  • Comment number 20.

    #12 "Card" is in my dictionary as a transitive verb!

  • Comment number 21.

    What is the point in writing these blogs if you don't ever reply to your readers questions?

  • Comment number 22.

    Why is there so much hype about McIlroy? He's only won 3 tournaments.

  • Comment number 23.

    "22.At 15:26 5th Aug 2011, Murray wrote:
    Why is there so much hype about McIlroy? He's only won 3 tournaments."

    Because he's 23 and one of those wins was a major, and he's world number 5?

    P.S Iain, a quote from the house rules:

    "Comments are what set a blog apart from a traditional column because they create an immediate dialogue between the audience and author."

  • Comment number 24.

    I have checked with the European Tour and it seems McIlroy is protected by his recently acquired Lifetime membership. I must admit this surprised me because it can clearly have a detrimental effect for the Tour if their biggest name players are effectively honoured with the right to cut their number of appearances to accommodate playing more in America.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'll bet someone in the lower ranks of the exemption catagories will be chuffed to bits if they're slogging it out supporting the tour in Sardinia and other outposts in early season and then can't play the PGA because Rory decides to turn up for one of the couple of events he can be bothered with.

    Does the tour actually consult its membership before awarding life memberships? It all happened so fast that it's hard to imagine it did. I think they really dropped a clanger with this award, and the clanger seems to be about to be smashed back in their face.

    Monty wouldn't be my favourote player by any stretch, but he's far more worthy of life membership of the tour than a kid with one tour victory and a foreign major to his name.

    I like Rory, and I support his right to play where he chooses, I just think the tour has dropped a dog's dangly bit.

  • Comment number 26.

    I wonder how Casey, Donald, Poulter, Rose, Molinaris, Jimenez, Karlsson etc like Rory and his mates having a free pass after years of, more or (in some cases) less, supporting the European Tour through thick and thin to play Ryder Cup. The Tour's idea of firsts among equals is going to cause problems sooner rather than later, not least among those jilted last year.

    It would surely be more reasonable to award lifetime membership after a certain age?

  • Comment number 27.

    Iain, as I said before, I think McIlroy made his intentions clear to O'Grady then hey presto, lifetime membership awarded and the problem of playing minimum events is sorted. Seems some odd goings on at the Wentworth HQ, Westwood was give the award for reaching world number 1.......Luke Donald?

    Anyway, thanks for getting back to us, you can always check with us golf fans before you post your blogs if you're unsure of anything. Either that or check with your knowledgable friends over on 606v2.


  • Comment number 28.

    Mmm, this 'life membership' for Rory does seem a bit odd. What if he totally loses it by age 25, for example? Never contends and yet still keeps his card year after year.

  • Comment number 29.

    Rory will be in Europe more than you all think, has anyone seen his practice area at his County Down home? Its amazing and I doubt he would get that much land in an exclusive area in Florida.

    It's also great to read all the views of bitter non-Irish golf fans.. 'What if he totally loses it by age 25' or 'a kid with one tour victory and a foreign major to his name'. Please don't make ridiculous comments. Besides, Rory has achieved in a few years more than some will achieve in their lifetime!

  • Comment number 30.

    Comments please ref the 'new' pairings trend which puts countrymen / Ryder Cup Team mates alongside one another ? I honestly believe it was detrimental for Donald and Westwood to spend 2 rounds together for example in the Open? Somehow must make it more mundane, to me. For example, i imagine playing with a top American eg Steve Stricker, would motivate ? Now i see theyve put Rory with Darren for the PGA !

  • Comment number 31.


    Its traditional in the PGA Championship for the winners of the previous three majors of the year to play together the first couple of days. So last year Mickelson, McDowell and Oosthuizen played together, and this year Schwartzel, McIlroy and Clarke are playing together.

  • Comment number 32.

    Who's bitter? I cheered to the rafters when he won the US Open, and watched in dismay when it all went wrong in Augusta. "I like Rory", as I said above. But there are many more cases deserving life membership ahead of Rory.

    The "draw" is a farce throughout professional golf tournaments. Every player should be afforded the same chance to be adversely affected by pairing, weather, dislike of early/late starts, the scrum that follows Woods' group, or whatever.

    It's wrong that there's a prime 9:08 start time on the first day of the Open, it's wrong that "attractive groups" get created for prime time TV coverage and it's wrong that Woods or McIlroy for example can't get the last tee time out on Day 1 of a major and be finishing at 8:30 in the evening.

    In stroke play events there should be a totally random draw. End of question. TV should not be able to dictate an individual's chance and I strongly believe it could be doing in stroke play events.

    Matchplay they can schedule order of play how they like after the draw is done, it's head to head and conditions are the same for both.

  • Comment number 33.

    Read this blog and the usual sprinkles of tosh, gullibility, fine observations & all good to see the incredibly converse feelings out there.
    I happen to agree that there is overkill with rory in the media but for good reason.
    He may have only won 3 tournaments but he is 'box office' and a thoroughly likeable guy (as are the other N.I majorees G-Man and DC)and a truly mature role model of a young guy.He is streaky in form but when he is good, he is in another galaxy.Also, when was the last time somone exciting came along in sport, never mind golf? He is up there as a world star already and has to sing to the suitable stage, the US tour. As for CW, I don't buy it, that is harmless tweeting with a sponsor or two praying it happen.As above he is a thoroughly decent guy & being from Norn Iron, I have heard reliably, what you see is what you get & he has recently split with his childhood sweetheart & my guess is that in time, they will reconcile and marry once he returns from the furore and the US.You can't buy love as we all know.



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