Rory McIlroy has said that he currently only has two European Tour events on his schedule for 2019, which would see him fail to meet the minimum requirements for Tour membership
Rory McIlroy is at the DP World Tour Championships for the Race to Dubai series finale this week, but has made it clear that the European Tour is not his priority next season. And it's a decision that could see him give up his chance to ever become a Ryder Cup Captain.
McIlroy said during his press conference on Tuesday that he was unsure if he was going to retain his European Tour membership in 2019 as he turns his focus back to winning majors and competing against the strongest fields every week.
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As one of their biggest stars it will come as a big blow to the European Tour, with McIlroy admitting he currently has just two European Tour events (other than majors and WGC's) on his schedule for next year.
"I don't know," McIlroy said. "Right now I've got two events on my schedule in Europe.
"I don't have to commit to that until next year so I'm starting my year off in the States. That'll be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then, obviously, we will assess from there.
"I've got a couple of pure European Tour events on my schedule up to the end of August. I guess my big thing is I want to play against the strongest fields week in, week out, and for the most part of the season that is in America.
"And if I want to continue to contend in the majors and continue my journey back towards the top of the game, that's what I want to do."
Both the European Tour and PGA Tour have undergone big changes to their schedules for next year, while the major season has been condensed into just four months following the PGA Championship's move to May, while the Players Championship moves to March.
This means the FedEx Cup play-offs will take place a month earlier in August, while the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship subsequently moves from May to September.
In addition to the changes, European Tour players will have to contend with a much more global Tour that includes 48 tournaments in a staggering 31 countries and five continents.
"The way the schedule has worked for next year, it is going to be different for a lot of guys," McIlroy said.
"I think everything is going to be so condensed between March and August so that's why I'm going to be taking quite a big off season to get myself ready."
"To have that break and impose an off season on myself, I can then go at it hard in March, all the way through to basically the end of the season," he added.
For McIlroy the decision comes not only so that he can have a big off season to prepare, but also because 2019 isn't a Ryder Cup year, although he maintained that he still wants to focus on becoming a member of the Ryder Cup team in two years time.
"Right now that's all up in the air," McIlroy added. "But if it were to be that I don't fulfil my membership next year it is not a Ryder Cup year so it is not the end of the world.
"I'm always going to want to play the Ryder Cup so if that does happen, so be it, and I try to make the Ryder Cup team the year after."
However, a knock-on effect of giving up European Tour membership has more implications than being unable to qualify for the Race to Dubai; it would also stop him from ever becoming a future Ryder Cup Vice Captain or Captain.
It's unclear whether McIlroy is aware of the rule that was introduced at the start of 2018, which dictated: "The committee also introduced a new regulation stating that players cannot be a European Ryder Cup Captain or a Vice-Captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfil their minimum event obligation in any season, from 2018 onwards.'
The minimum requirement to maintain membership is four European Tour sanctioned tournaments outside the Major Championships and World Golf Championships.