There was worrying news for the European Tour yesterday when Lee Westwood announced he is joining the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy revealed that, due to his new American commitments, he may skip his home Open.
Westwood's U-turn is a surprise. The world No 3 told The Independent yesterday that it was the sight of his countryman Luke Donald faring so impressively on Stateside that convinced him to sign up.
"Watching Luke do so well made me want to try it out too," said Westwood, who will need to play a minimum 15 PGA Tour events. "You need a fresh approach every now and then."
One of the main factors for Westwood not taking up his American membership was the FedEx Cup, the month-long end-of-season play-offs which come with a $10m bonus for the winner. Last year, Westwood said that "he would prefer to be on holiday with the kids".
Explaining his change of heart, Westwood said: "I saw how big the FedEx Cup events were – they carry a lot of ranking points and look great courses to play. I know I said I'd rather go on holiday with the kids, but looking at the schedule I can still do that."
This includes The Players Championship, AKA "the fifth major", which Westwood and McIlroy controversially missed in May. "Watching it I said to myself, 'I want to be there,'" he said. "It's a big tournament in which I've always played well. I'll only play two or so fewer tournaments on the European Tour."
What will cause the European circuit plenty of discomfort is McIlroy's revelation that he may skip next year's Irish Open, because of a schedule clash with the AT&T Championship at Congressional, the scene of his US Open success.
"I am very conscious the Irish Open needs home-grown support," said McIlroy, who is also relocating to America as he too joins the PGA Tour. "But then Congressional will always hold happy memories. It's a tough one. If I don't play I know there will be a lot of comments."