McIlroy joins PGA Tour - finally

Rory McIlroy confirmed in Hong Kong on Tuesday that he has joined the PGA Tour so he can become a major contender.

Rory McIlroy loves to be lovedThe 20-year-old Holywood starlet finally made up his mind after Sunday's brilliant closing 63 in the HSBC Champions proved that the bigger the stage, the better he plays.

Ending weeks of speculation about his plans, the world No 17 promised never to turn his back on Europe and insisted that he will copy Padraig Harrington by playing on both sides of the pond.

McIlroy said: “I can’t thank the European Tour enough but I am just in a privileged position where I play wherever I want, and besides I earned enough money in US Tour events to get my card so I have taken out membership.

“I want to become a better player and the best way to develop my game is to be playing more in the States and playing a worldwide schedule.

“I just feel that I will become a better golfer if I also play in America. I will be playing in world class fields with more world ranking points on offer.

“The only way for me to get better is to play alongside better players and on paper at this moment there are 16 better players than me in the world.

“In this game you have to challenge yourself against the best and last Sunday in Shanghai was a great example of how I was able to respond to the challenge."

After racking up top 10 finishes in the US PGA, the US Open and the World Golf Championships in Tucson and Shanghai, he explained: "I’m not saying this to big note myself but you can see from efforts in the majors and the World Golf Championships this year that I like to play in those fields because I just seem to be up for them, and they offer a bigger challenge."

McIlroy said last month that he would wait until next week’s Dubai World Championship to announce his decision on PGA Tour membership.

But as he's ranked second behind Lee Westwood in the inaugural Race to Dubai, he made his announcement in Hong Kong to avoid overshadowing the European Tour’s flagship event.

He said: “My decision is not that much of a big deal and besides I am only adding a couple of more events. The European Tour is still my home tour.

“I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea that I am just going away to America because that is not what I am planning."

McIlroy played 12 PGA Tour counting events this year — the four majors, four World Golf Championships, the Players Championship and three regular US Tour events.

He earned $849,719 which would have been good enough to finish 100th on the US money list and he only needs to add three more tournaments to complete the mandatory 15 US starts required.

The Ulster ace will kick off his 2010 season in Abu Dhabi in January and defend his Dubai Desert Classic title before playing eight events in the US, including the two World Golf Championships, the Masters and the Players Championship.

His first event on European soil will be May’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Rory McIlroy's proposed 2010 schedule

January 21-24 Abu Dhabi Championship (European Tour)

February 4-7 Dubai Desert Classic (European Tour)

February 17-21  WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship, Tucson, Az.

March 4-7 The Honda Classic, Palm Beach, Fla.

March 11-14 WGC – CA Championship, Doral, Fla.

March 25-28 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bay Hill, Orlando, Fla.

April 1-4 Shell Houston Open, Houston, Tx

April 8-11 Masters Tournament, Augusta, Ga.

April 29-May 2 Quail Hollow Championship, Charlotte, NC 

May 6-9 The Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass, Fla.

May 20-23 BMW PGA Championship, Wentworth, England

June 3-6 The Memorial, Dublin, Ohio.

June 17-20 US Open, Pebble Beach, Ca.

July 8-11 Barclays Scottish Open, Loch Lomond, Scotland

July 15-18 The Open, St Andrews, Scotland

July 29-Aug. 1 3 Irish Open, Killarney, Ireland

August 5-8 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Akron, Ohio

August 12-14 US PGA Championship, Whistling Straits, Wisconsin

Aug-Sept FedEx Cup play-offs?

October 1-3 Ryder Cup?