McIlroy sets sail for the States
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.