Sport Golf

Monday 19 March 2018

McIlroy rejects US Tour chance

Rory McIlroy talks to Sid Wilson, the US PGA Tour's Executive Director of Player Relations during the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head, South Carolina yesterday
Rory McIlroy talks to Sid Wilson, the US PGA Tour's Executive Director of Player Relations during the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head, South Carolina yesterday

Bernie McGuire in Hilton Head

Rory McIlroy has formally turned down a golden opportunity to become a member of the US PGA Tour.

McIlroy was approached by the Tour with the offer of 'Special Temporary' membership, which is customary Tour practice once a player earns a certain amount in a season.

There is a PGA Tour-headed 'Deed of Consent' awaiting McIlroy at his Belfast residence when he arrives home early next week from South Carolina, where he is competing in the Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head.

But the document will stay with McIlroy as his management company ISM, on the advice of the teenager, emailed the PGA Tour on Wednesday to advise that their client is declining the offer. This was after McIlroy was spotted in long conversation on the eve of the event speaking with the US Tour's Sid Wilson, executive director of player relations.

'Special Temporary' membership becomes available to non-US Tour competitors once they have earned more in a year than the 150th-placed player on the money list the previous year. Last year that player was former British Open champion Todd Hamilton, who banked $537,958.

England's Ross Fisher has applied and been accepted under the 'Special Temporary' membership category as he has amassed $588,575, with $490,000 of that earned in finishing a beaten semi-finalist in the WGC -- Accenture Match Play Championship.

Other Europeans to accept 'Special Temporary' membership this year include Ryder Cup star Oliver Wilson and India's Jeev Milkha Singh.

McIlroy arrived in Hilton Head having earned $526,093 from his five events in the States, with his best being a cheque for $270,000 for finishing in a tie for fifth in the Match Play Championship.

It means that once McIlroy earns the $11,865 that is the difference between what he's earned this year and the sum Hamilton banked last year, he's fully eligible for 'Special Temporary' member status.

But after discussing the issue with 2008 US Masters champion Trevor Immelman, McIlroy has now confirmed he has declined the offer after carding an opening-round one-over-par 72 on the Harbour Town course.

"I am only going to play 11 events over here this year so I don't need any extra invites to compete," said McIlroy.

"I've thought about taking out full membership but that would mean adding another four events over here which would be quite difficult.

"It's a lot of golf on top of what I need to play in Europe so I'll put that idea on hold for the time being."

McIlroy's first round in his sixth event in the States was a mixture of three birdies and four bogeys that left him trailing eight shots behind Germany's Alex Cejka, who carded a season-best of seven-under-par 64.

And it was a mentally exhausted Ulsterman who left the scorer's hut. "I was a little flat coming off last week and I just didn't get anything going but then I guess that is to be a little bit expected after playing in a Major," he said. "I am also looking forward to getting home, as well."

The highlight of his round was back-to-back birdies at his 13th and 14th holes by first hitting an eight iron to two feet before getting up-and-down from a bunker for birdie at the next.

The Verizon Heritage, Live, Setanta Golf, 8pm

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