European Tour: Rory McIlroy may play in only two events in 2019

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
Rory McIlroy playing at the Nedbank Challenge
After finishing in a share of 21st place at last weekend's Nedbank Challenge, McIlroy is sixth in the Race to Dubai having played in 12 European Tour events in 2018

Rory McIlroy could play in only two European Tour events next year in a bid to win his first major since 2014.

The Northern Irishman is considering the move as it is not a Ryder Cup year - but the decision could end his chances of ever being Europe's captain.

He has only committed to two of the four events needed to remain a member.

Players cannot be a captain or vice-captain if they decline membership of the Tour or fail to fulfil the minimum event obligation in any season.

The former world number one will miss the Middle East swing of tournaments at the start of 2019 but is expected to play the European Masters in Switzerland and will probably play in Scotland rather than Ireland immediately before next July's Open Championship.

Asked by BBC Sport whether he planned to retain his European Tour membership, McIlroy said: "I don't know. Right now I've got two events on my schedule in Europe.

"I don't have to commit to that until next year so I'm starting my year off in the States. That'll be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then, obviously, we will assess from there.

"I've got a couple of pure European Tour events on my schedule up to the end of August. I guess my big thing is I want to play against the strongest fields week in, week out, and for the most part of the season that is in America.

"And if I want to continue to contend in the majors and continue my journey back towards the top of the game, that's what I want to do."

If McIlroy does not maintain his membership it would be a big blow to the European Tour.

He is one of the circuit's biggest stars and would be ineligible for next year's Race to Dubai, an accolade he has won three times in the last six seasons.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy will not be able to be European Ryder Cup captain if he fails to fulfil the European Tour's minimum number of events this season.

"Right now that's all up in the air," McIlroy added. "But if it were to be that I don't fulfil my membership next year it is not a Ryder Cup year so it is not the end of the world.

"I'm always going to want to play the Ryder Cup so if that does happen, so be it, and I try to make the Ryder Cup team the year after.

"It is a big shift but I think it is good for a lot of reasons."

Next year's tournament calendar has undergone big changes on both sides of the Atlantic with the US PGA Championship, traditionally the year's final major, moving from August to May and the Players Championship reverting to March.

This means the FedEx Cup play-offs will take place a month earlier in August and the European Tour's showcase BMW PGA Championship being played at Wentworth in September rather than May.

"The way the schedule has worked for next year, it is going to be different for a lot of guys," McIlroy said.

"I think everything is going to be so condensed between March and August so that's why I'm going to be taking quite a big off season to get myself ready."

After this week's season finale at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, McIlroy will play only once in the next 13 weeks.

"To have that break and impose an off season on myself, I can then go at it hard in March, all the way through to basically the end of the season," he added.


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