Rory McIlroy to give up his European Tour membership in 2019

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The two star men went some way to helping Europe win the Ryder Cup at a canter from the US, and ten golfers from that contest are competing in the first round in Dubai.

Smith, who graduated from the Challenge Tour in 2016 and won the European Open past year, made two birdies and two bogeys in the first 12 holes before catching fire. I am starting my year off in the USA [ in Hawaii in January] and that Tour will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess from there.

Tommy Fleetwood, who needs to win in Dubai to have any chance of pipping Molinari to the Harry Vardon Trophy, was a shot behind his Ryder Cup teammate in a group including former world number one Rory McIlroy. I will play the WGCs and majors and events like that, but the true European Tour season does not start until July. Names like Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and, well, Fleetwood, who took the title a year ago.

England's Tommy Fleetwood studies a shot on the 16th hole during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship golf tournament in Dubai. While giving up membership in a non-Ryder Cup year does not impact his playing status, new rules state that giving up membership makes you ineligible to be a captain or vice captain in the future.

"It's such a great tournament that is only open to the top 60 players in the Race to Dubai so obviously the field is always full of top quality", added Milner.

Rory McIlroy will focus on the PGA Tour in 2019 - which may mean that he forfeits his European Tour membership. It is the American equivalent of taking the Players Championship and U.S. Open in the same year.

If he chooses, McIlroy could play Pebble Beach, Riviera and the WGC-Mexico Championship in consecutive weeks; then after a week off, play the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship; and then the WGC-Match Play Championship two weeks prior to the Masters. I don't have to commit to anything until May, so I will not have played a European Tour event. Hit a lot of good shots on that front nine, but just couldn't quite find the hole.

For McIlroy the decision comes not only so that he can have a big off season to prepare, but also because 2019 isn't a Ryder Cup year, although he maintained that he still wants to focus on becoming a member of the Ryder Cup team in two years time.

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There is even the possibility he will miss the Irish Open, an event that he has helped save by promoting it for the last four years.

"I guess my thing is that I want to play against the strongest fields week-in and week-out, and for the most part of the season that is in America, " McIlroy said.

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