Rory relents, signs up for European Tour after all

Although he suggested late last year that he might not take up European Tour membership for 2019, Rory McIlroy did just that recently -- quietly signing up in advance of the May 1 deadline, his manager, Sean O'Flaherty, confirmed Thursday.

McIlroy, who turned 30 on Saturday, had said he wanted to concentrate on the PGA Tour during this non-Ryder Cup year. He had decided to skip European Tour events in the Middle East that he would have normally played.

"Everyone has to look out for themselves,'' McIlroy said in November. "And next year I'm looking out for me.''

But after a December visit from European Tour CEO Keith Pelley, McIlroy's stance softened, and it appeared he would take up membership for this year at some point. The four-time major winner will be required to play four events outside of the major championships and the World Golf Championship events.

Because he had not yet joined the European Tour, McIlroy's appearances in the WGC-Mexico Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship and the Masters will not count toward the Race to Dubai standings.

McIlroy is likely to play the Scottish Open prior to The Open at Royal Portrush, as well as the BMW PGA Championship in September at Wentworth, which kicks off the qualifying period for the 2020 European Ryder Cup team.

The Northern Irish golfer would then be required to add two more events on the European Tour schedule before the end of 2019.

Had he not joined the tour this year, McIlroy could have risked a future Ryder Cup captaincy. Current rules stipulate that future vice captains and captains must take up membership each year.

Next week's PGA Championship -- which McIlroy has won twice -- will be his first event that counts on the European Tour standings.