McIlroy may not play in Europe this year over virus concerns
Rory McIlroy might not appear on the European Tour this year. In comments that will cause consternation on his home circuit, the Northern Irishman indicated that coronavirus fears would restrict his travel from the United States.
The world No2 plays in today’s first round of the WGC St Jude FedEx Classic in Memphis, trying to relocate his form for next week’s USPGA Championship in San Francisco. McIlroy will then attempt to defend his FedEx Cup crown before the US Open in September.
“Honestly, I don’t know if I see myself going back to Europe this year,” the 31-year-old said. “I don’t know if I want to travel, I don’t know if I want to be exposed to more things and more people.”
Many will spot irony after his criticism of European Ryder Cup team-mates – including Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari – who skipped the early events of the PGA Tour’s restart last month.
Acknowledging he felt “sympathy” with Lee Westwood and Eddie Pepperell – who have spurned the chance to play in the US PGA – McIlroy said he would have travelled across the Atlantic for a major. “I understand where they’re coming from, but if it was an Open, I would probably take the risk,” he said.
As it is, McIlroy is focusing on his game after a quartet of erratic displays since the lockdown was lifted – the first time he has gone four events without a top 10 in 2½ years. “If I can put four solid rounds together, I’ll have a chance,” he said.
The suspicion is that the born performer is finding the no-crowds scene flat. When asked if he felt the thrill of a major build-up, he replied: “Not really. It’s the people and the atmosphere, that’s what makes a tournament and when you don’t have that, there’s nothing for them to differentiate themselves.”
It could be worse – he could be Brooks Koepka. Top of the rankings in February, the American is now sixth. He has missed two of his past three cuts and, suffering from a knee injury, has not begun to resemble the golfer who has won four of his past 10 majors. Next week he will be defending champion again, as he tries to become the first player to win three US PGAs in succession.
Meanwhile, on the European Tour, Thorbjorn Olesen plays his first tournament in almost a year after being arrested and charged with sexual assault, assault by beating and being drunk on an aircraft. Olesen has entered a “not guilty” plea and denies the charges.
The Dane’s trial has been delayed until December 2021, and so the Tour lifted its suspension and Olesen is at the Hero Open at the Forest of Arden.