Rory McIlroy will focus on the PGA Tour in 2019 – which may mean that he forfeits his European Tour membership.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, McIlroy said that he wants to play the best competition week-in and week-out, and “for the most part of the season, that is in America.”
To retain membership, McIlroy needs to play four regular European Tour events outside of the majors or World Golf Championship events. Currently, the world No. 7 is slated to play only two – the European Masters in Switzerland, and perhaps the Scottish Open instead of the Irish Open – and then will reevaluate his schedule in late August, after the PGA Tour's FedExCup playoffs.
“Right now, that is all sort of up in the air, but if it were to be that I don’t fulfill my membership next year, it’s not a Ryder Cup year, so it’s not the end of the world,” he told reporters. “I am always going to want to play the Ryder Cup, so if that does happen, so be it, and I will try and make the Ryder Cup team the year after.”
But here's another wrinkle, thanks to a new rule that was enacted in January: "Players cannot be a European Ryder Cup captain or vice captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfill their minimum event obligation in any season."
The 2019 global golf schedule is much more condensed between March and August, creating difficult decisions for international players such as McIlroy. His absence would be a massive blow for the European Tour, as he’d be ineligible for the season-long Race to Dubai. He could regain his membership in 2020 – and be eligible for the Ryder Cup – by fulfilling the four-event requirement.
After this week’s event in Dubai, McIlroy will play only once – at Kapalua – in the next 13 weeks.