European Tour CEO flies to Belfast to convince Rory McIlroy to keep his membership

December 18, 2018

European golf fans were prepared to see a lot less of Rory McIlroy in 2019 after the star suggested recently that he’d play mostly in the U.S. next season. But thanks to a last-ditch effort from the European tour’s chief executive, it looks like McIlroy will keep his Euro membership after all.

Back in November, McIlroy was playing in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. In a press conference, the four-time major winner shocked the gathered media by saying there was a chance he would forfeit his European Tour card for 2019 in favor of playing more on the PGA Tour. The culprit? The PGA Tour’s schedule shakeup.

No one was more taken aback than Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European Tour. Fearing the loss of one of his organization’s biggest stars (and biggest draws), Pelley chartered a flight to Belfast last week to make his case to the former World No. 1, according to the Mirror.

The gambit seems to have worked, as the Mirror’s report suggests McIlroy now plans on expanding his schedule to include more Euro Tour events.

Rory McIlroy speaks with Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour, during the 2018 DP World Tour Championship.
Rory McIlroy speaks with Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour, during the 2018 DP World Tour Championship.

To maintain his card, McIlroy needs to play the four major championships and WGCs (co-sanctioned by both major tours) in addition to four other Euro events. But in November, McIlroy said the schedule had forced him to commit to only two other events: the Scottish Open and the Omega European Masters. The PGA Championship is moving to May next year, which has forced the American tour to alter the schedule significantly.

“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 offseason to get myself ready… then go at it hard from March all the way through to basically the end of the season,” McIlroy previously told the AP.

The reduced schedule would see McIlroy lose his Euro Tour card, which means he wouldn’t be eligible for the European Ryder Cup team (although the next event isn’t until 2020). Former Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley even penned an op-ed for Sky Sports taking McIlroy to task for his decision to abandon Europe.

According to the Mirror, McIlroy will now likely play the Dubai Desert Classic in January, as well as either the Irish Open or the BMW PGA Championship.