Rory McIlroy has revealed he negotiated a deal with the European Tour to retain his membership after being initially unable to play the required number of events.
McIlroy’s decision to miss the Irish Open in July appeared likely to cost him his Tour card as regulations state he would have to add two extra events to his schedule by opting not to tee up in his home Open.
But, due to McIlroy’s hectic PGA Tour schedule, he was not able to fulfil his European Tour requirements before striking a deal with European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, who instead asked him to play in at least three Rolex Series events this season.
The offer was agreed by McIlroy and passed by the European Tour committee, so having already played in the Scottish Open, he will feature in this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth before making the season-ending DP World Tour Championship his third and final Rolex Series start – assuming he is among the top 50 in the Race to Dubai.
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McIlroy is coming off a two-week rest following a punishing spell of seven tournament in eight weeks, but he admitted he was talked out of making it a three-week break and persuaded to come to Wentworth by his wife – which prompted him to contact Pelley.
“My wife said to me, ‘what are you trying to do, or what sort of point are you trying to make?’ My thing was, I knew at the start of this year that I wasn’t going to play The Irish Open, and the rule was that you have to play an extra two events if you don’t play your home Open.
“So Keith Pelley and I sat down and I said, ‘Keith, I can’t possibly do that, you can’t ask me to’. So Keith came back to me and suggested a compromise where instead of playing two extra, you have to play three of these Rolex Series events a year. And I said, ‘Done, 100 per cent done’. Once we had that conversation, it was totally fine.
“Look, I don’t want to try and make The European Tour bend the rules for me in any way, but I just think we’re trying our best over on the other side of the pond, we are trying our best over here, and just needed to come to some sort of compromise where we felt comfortable that we can compete on both tours.
“I think that was fair, that was a fair deal in the end.”
McIlroy, who insisted he will play in next year’s Irish Open, also hit out at the pace of play at last week’s Solheim Cup and reiterated his calls for more severe punishments for repeat offenders, something that could be seen at Wentworth this week with a timing system being trialled as part of the European Tour’s four-point plan to combat slow play.
Timing clocks on certain tees around the West Course will help each group in determining whether they are out of position or not, and McIlroy said: “I think it’s a start. Look, it’s not a great thing for our game.
First round tee times
Groups and starting times for the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship
“I don’t want to single out particular people, but I watched a lot of the Solheim Cup at the weekend, and it was really slow. As much as you want to sit there and watch and support the European girls, like it’s just hard not to get frustrated with it.