U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy is “leaning towards” taking up PGA Tour membership again next year. What’s that sound you hear? Champagne bottles uncorking from PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida! Heck, the media room is buzzing with excitement from the news.
“I’m leaning towards taking my card up again,” said McIlroy during his presser at Firestone, site of this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “I feel as if I play my best golf over here. I’m very comfortable in this country. I’m definitely looking towards coming back and playing a full schedule here.
“I’ve thought about it and feel my game really suits playing courses over here. I love Quail Hollow, Memorial, Akron. You play Match Play, Honda, Doral, Masters – you have your favorite events and most of my favorite events seem to be on this side of the pond
“I’d like to give it a go again and last more than one year and see how it goes.”
What swayed McIlroy to return? Well, you may remember his comments after last month’s British Open. Which is what prompted his interest.
“The reaction?” asked a reporter.
“No, the weather,” Rory replied, laughing.
McIlroy gave up his card after the 2010 season, saying he wasn’t fond of playing in the end-of-the-season FedEx Cup playoffs and wanting to be closer to home.
“The only thing about the FedEx was that you only got a week off after the PGA and then straight back into four weeks out of five that were pretty tough,” said McIlroy. It’s hard to keep it going for that length of time. But yeah, it’s something that you just have to accept.”
What about The Players, the Tour’s marquee event that he skipped this season?
“Most likely, yeah, I probably will (play in it),” he said.
PGA Tour Chief of Operations Andy Pazder said Rory expressed his interest to him, along with Ross Berlin, in the morning. There would be no restrictions if Rory wants to return next year.
“He certainly gave strong indication (in the press conference),” said Pazder. “He has plenty of time to make a final decision and if it works out that he’s rejoining the PGA Tour, obviously we’re ecstatic about that. An immense talent and a personable young man, he’d be an asset for us, no question.”
With the Tour renegotiating important (and lucrative) TV contracts this year, McIlroy would be a valuable bargaining chip.
While Rory hasn’t made a final decision, the odds appear to be very good. He plans to go house-shopping after the PGA Championship.
“I might go and stay with G-Mac for a night at Lake Nona and see what that’s like and then down in West Palm Beach and Jupiter,” said McIlroy.
And then there’s Rory’s personal life, which has significantly changed lately.
Just before the British Open, McIlroy broke up with longtime girlfriend Holly Sweeney, whom he lived with in Belfast. Since then, he’s been linked to world no. 1 tennis player Caroline Wozniacki. Asked about the public scrutiny of his personal life, Rory understands it’s something that comes along with the territory.
“The person I am holding hands with, we are both in a position where there’s a high level of scrutiny,” said McIlroy, referring to Wozniacki. “It’s just something you have to deal with. It’s not something that is ever going to go away, or I hope it doesn’t go away because it would mean I wasn’t playing good golf. It’s part of my career now.”
Did the changes at home factor into his decision?
“Maybe a little bit,” he said, pausing. “Yeah, definitely.”
(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)