Rory McIlroy Changes Course, Plans To Rejoin PGA Tour For '12
U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy "served up a surprise on Wednesday when he revealed that he intends to join" the PGA Tour beginning in '12 and "set up a home in Florida," according to Lawrence Donegan of the GUARDIAN. McIlroy announced that he "wants to play a 'full schedule' in the US next year, adding that he sees his long-term future centring" on the PGA Tour. He said, "I feel as if I play my best golf over here. I am very comfortable in this country." McIlroy said that he spoke to PGA Tour officials yesterday morning ahead of this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and "informed them of his intentions." His decision "represents a startling volte-face," having indicated this year that he did not plan to apply for his PGA Tour card after dropping it at the end of last season. News of his decision "will come as a boost" to the Tour, which will be "negotiating new TV deals in the coming months." Donegan notes there was "little indication of what has caused this change of mind, though it is safe to assume" that McIlroy's breakup with his longtime girlfriend from Northern Ireland "may have had something to do with it" (GUARDIAN, 8/4). In Orlando, Jeff Shain notes McIlroy spent part of yesterday "meeting with PGA Tour officials to discuss the procedures of regaining membership." He faces a Nov. 22 deadline to formally "tell the PGA Tour his intentions" for next season. McIlroy yesterday said, "I feel as if my game really suits playing courses over here. I love Quail Hollow, Memorial, Akron. You play Match Play, Honda, Doral, Masters" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/4). McIlroy added, "I’d like to give it a go again and obviously last more than one year and really see how it goes" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 8/3).
COMING & GOING: In London, James Corrigan notes McIlroy's announced intention to play more in the U.S. is a "stunning change of heart, which was greeted with euphoria on one side of the pond and something of despair on the other." Sources indicated that McIlroy will "probably end up playing in the region of 17 events in the States, restricting his European Tour appearances to six which, with the majors and the WGC events, would take him up to the bare minimum of 13." McIlroy still will "appear on his home continent, but the move will be a huge blow for the European Tour, if only because of the marketing implications of not owning McIlroy 'exclusively.'" Sources suggested that McIlroy "was struggling with all the attention in his homeland" (London INDEPENDENT, 8/4). CBSSPORTS.com's Steve Elling wrote PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem likely is "dancing an Irish jig" after hearing McIlroy's intentions. McIlroy has "flash, panache and charisma," and he would "immediately leap to the fore as one of the tour's most indispensible players, especially with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson laboring to keep their footholds at the top" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/3). GOLF.com' Gary Van Sickle wrote, "The return of McIlroy would come at a key time as the PGA Tour prepares to negotiate a new round of contracts with its television partners" (GOLF.com, 8/3). Golf Channel's Gary Williams said, "This is Texas Hold 'em with TV networks and with the PGA Tour. I’m not holding up a 10 – the 10 is a healthy Tiger. But this young kid is a euro rock star. He is a 9.” Golf Channel’s Erik Kuselias: “This would be a win for the PGA Tour that gives them a little of their prestige back" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 8/4). On Long Island, Mark Herrmann writes rejoining the PGA Tour would be "quite a departure for a young golfer who was outspoken about how the PGA Tour was not his cup of tea when he tried it last year." McIlroy "particularly disliked" the FedExCup playoff format (NEWSDAY, 8/4).
GUESS WHO'S BACK? Tiger Woods returns to golf today at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after a nearly three month layoff, and GOLF WORLD's John Feinstein writes for the "first time since he welcomed himself to the PGA Tour" 15 years ago, Woods "needs golf more than golf needs" him. Feinstein: "Will TV ratings go up if Woods contends? Of course. Will people become breathless if he goes on an early Sunday birdie-binge the way he did at Augusta this past April? Sure. If none of that happens, though, what we now know is that the sport will go on." Golf will "happily welcome Woods back to the point" where Finchem and TV execs "might line up to throw rose petals at his feet." But the sport "will move along without him if need be." Twelve golfers have won the last 13 majors since Woods won the '08 U.S. Open, creating "new stars" for the game of golf. At the same time, Woods' winless streak "has also rekindled some older players." Feinstein: "Woods is still more famous than all of them combined. But he is as famous for his life failures these days as he is for his golf accomplishments. ... Golf isn't all-Tiger, all-the-time anymore. Fans will embrace this next group of stars" (GOLF WORLD, 8/8 issue).