Rory McIlroy hints at US campaign in 2019 in pursuit of top spot
Rory McIlroy dropped a bombshell Tuesday by hinting he could give up his European Tour membership in an effort to get back to the top of the world rankings next year.
The world number seven plans to concentrate on playing in the United States, especially with the changes that have been made to the 2019 world golf schedule.
Four-time major winner McIlroy is a three-time champion of the Tour’s Race to Dubai and has been a part of every European Ryder Cup team since 2010.
Next year, the WGC-Mexico Championship will be played in February, the Players Championship has been advanced to March, the Masters in April, the PGA Championship has been moved to May and the US Open is in June.
Which means there will be one big tournament every month across the Pacific until the British Open in July.
The looks likely to miss the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Omega Dubai Desert Classic events, and play just two events - the European Masters in Switzerland in August and the Scottish Open, possibly missing out on the Irish Open, where he won the last of his 13 European Tour titles in 2016.
“I am starting my year off in the States (at the Tournament of Champions) and that will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess it from there,” said the former world No1.
"I think it is the result of the changes," he explained ahead of the Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
"I don’t have to commit to anything until May, so I will not have played a European Tour event... I will play the WGCs and majors and events like that, but the true European Tour season does not start until July.
“The way the schedule has worked for next year, it is going to be different for a lot of guys.
"Everything is going to be so condensed between March and August, and that is why I am taking a big off-season to get myself ready, and then go at it hard from March all the way through to basically the end of the season.”
The former world No1 has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year – his only title in the last two years – and he is eager to get back to the top echelon of the sport.
"I’d maybe give it like a B-minus, and a win this week would get it up to a B,” said McIlroy about his season.
“I don’t want to continue to dwell on the negatives. There’s been a lot of positives in there, as well. I’ve played very consistently. I’ve had 10 top-10s. I finished second and had a great chance to win The Open.
"Obviously the game’s right there. It's just a matter of doing it when I need to do it most."
He added: "Right now that is all sort of up in the air, but if it were to be that I don’t fulfil my membership next year, it’s not a Ryder Cup year so it’s not the end of the world."
McIlroy is ranked sixth in the Race to Dubai this week, which means even if he wins the tournament, he won’t be able to surmount front-runners Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood and secure a fourth European No1 crown.