What is good for Lee Westwood is good for Rory McIlroy – and absolutely sensational for the European Tour. Yesterday the young Ulsterman revealed he will be following the lead of the world No 1 and cancelling his membership of the PGA Tour.
The news will come as a shock in America, particularly as McIlroy had enjoyed such a fine start to his Stateside career this year. The 21-year-old became one of the Tour's poster boys following his remarkable final-round 62 at the Quail Hollow Championship in May, which won him his first US title. But now they will have to pull down those posters after he decided to focus predominantly on Europe.
Explaining his dramatic U-Turn, McIlroy said: "I found myself in America last year, especially during the FedEx Cup play-off series, just not wanting to be there. I switched on the Golf Channel and watched the European Masters in Switzerland and thought to myself, 'I would rather be there'."
McIlroy told Tim Finchem of his decision late last week and while the PGA Tour commissioner apparently took it well, he will be deeply concerned. As Martin Kaymer, the world No 3, is also set to decline membership on what has long been considered the game's biggest circuit, the brand will inevitably be weakened. Of course, their rival tour in Europe will only be strengthened.
"The two best players in the world at the moment are not going to join the US Tour next year," said McIlroy, who, himself, is the world No 9. "It's a great time for European golf."
McIlroy made his choice after taking advice from Westwood, who has consistently refused to chase the dollar. Just like the Englishman, McIlroy has been put off by the end-of-season play-offs which entail the PGA Tour pros playing up to four events in five weeks. The series does boast a collective purse of almost $70m (£43m), but that is evidently not enough to entice McIlroy. The boy has other priorities.
"The FedEx Cup is only about money and you shouldn't just be going over to play thinking about how much you can make," said McIlroy. "I needed a break after the USPGA [In August], but had only one week. There is no flexibility in your schedule as the FedEx forces you to appear at those events. I didn't like that."
Apart from the majors and World Golf Championship events, McIlroy will play only a handful of US events. He will be adding a couple more European stops to his calendar, although he is planning to cut his schedule down from 30 events to 22 or 23. He plainly fears burn-out and has also missed his home-life in Holywood.
"If you're not playing well in the States it can be a lonely place," said McIlroy. "But if you're not playing well on the European Tour you still have plenty of mates to hang out with. Holly [his girlfriend] also has another two years at university and we have two dogs, a nice house and I love my life back in Ireland. I don't ever want to give that up."
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