McIlroy abandons PGA Tour

It took more than a year for the penny to drop but Rory McIlroy has finally decided to heed the advice of his manager and turn his back on the PGA Tour.

Just over six months after winning the Quail Hollow Championship for his first US Tour victory, the 21-year old Ulsterman has decided not to commit to playing 15 events in the US next season.

“I found myself in America last year, especially in the FedEx Cup play-off series, just not wanting to be there,” McIlroy said in China where he finished fifth in the WGC-HSBC Champions.

“I started switching on the Golf Channel and watching the Omega European Masters in Switzerland and thinking to myself I would rather be there.

“After a tough summer of golf I need a break after the US PGA. I had one week this year, and then I found myself back in the States to play three in a row.

“There is no flexibility in your schedule as the FedEx Series forces you into making those events. You shouldn’t just be going over to play in the FedEx Cup thinking about how much money you can make.”

He added: “If you’re not playing well in the States it can be a lonely place. But if you’re not playing well on the European Tour you still have plenty of mates to hang out with. Holly 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.”

McIlroy’s manager, Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, was dead against his young starlet taking up PGA Tour membership when I asked him about that possibility in February 2009.

“There’s absolutely no point in him taking out his PGA Tour card,” Chandler said in Tucson. “Suddenly he has got to play 15 tournaments. Suddenly they start dictating to you.”

Despite being warned by the likes of Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke that he would be better off playing a world schedule, McIlroy joined the PGA Tour this season, winning in Charlotte and finishing 36th in the final FedEx Cup standings.

He made $2,554,280 from 17 starts, missing the cut in the Shell Houston Open, the Masters, The Players Championship and the US Open before putting in a lacklustre performance in the play-offs - finishing 56th in the Barclays and tied 37th in both the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship to miss out on the climaxing Tour Championship in Atlanta.

With world No 1 Lee Westwood and US PGA champion Martin Kaymer also deciding not to take up PGA Tour cards in 2011, his decision is a blow to US Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and a boost to his European counterpart George O’Grady.

McIlroy’s pal, the US Open champion Graeme McDowell, has taken the opposite tack and opted to take out his PGA Tour card.

He would have been an ideal travelling companion for McIlroy in a non-Ryder Cup year but the youngster said recently that he wanted to cut back on his playing schedule.

He has already pulled out of this week’s Barclays Singapore Open but with the UBS Hong Kong Open, the Dubai World Championship and Tiger Woods’ Chevron World Challenge still to come, the world No 9 will have played 28 events (including the Ryder Cup) when he downs tools for his winter break.

It will be interesting to see which events are culled from his 2011 schedule following his less than enthusiastic comments following events such as The Players, the BMW PGA Championship and the 3 Irish Open in 2010.