HEDDON-ON-THE-WALL, England – Rory McIlroy has the Ryder Cup on his mind this week as he tries to win the $4 million British Masters.
The four-time major winner added this week’s tournament to his schedule after missing out on last week’s Tour Championship. McIlroy finished 58th in this year’s FedEx Cup standings. That meant missing out on a trip to East Lake, but gave him the chance to join British Masters host Lee Westwood and his European Tour peers at Close House Golf Club.
More importantly, it means he can play in next year’s Ryder Cup guilt free.
“I want to play Ryder Cup next year,” McIlroy said. “So obviously got to play my five events in Europe. So that was a big decision into that (playing this week).”
McIlroy failed to fulfill his minimum number of European Tour events in 2015 when he injured his foot in a pickup soccer game with friends. There was some controversy at the end of the season when European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley allowed McIlroy to remain on the money list despite falling one event short of the then-required 13. McIlroy went on to pip Danny Willett for the European No. 1 title by winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“I’ve sort of been quite close to the edge on minimums and stuff the last few years,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t really want to put the European Tour in another sticky position. So I thought, yeah, I’ll play an extra one and not have to make them make the hard decision and have to answer to the membership about why I didn’t play the minimum when I could have.”
McIlroy is playing this week and next week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and then will shut down for the remainder of the season to try to get over a recurring rib injury that has hampered his season.
The 28-year-old took time off after The Players Championship to rest, but admits he should have taken more time off.
“I just haven’t given myself that little more prolonged length of time to let it fully heal and let it feel 100 percent,” McIlroy said. “I actually don’t feel that far away. I don’t feel like I can go out there all day and practice. I feel at some point, I’d have to take a bit of time to let it rest, and I can feel it sort of stiffening up and getting a little bit sore. It’s not as if I can go full bore at it like I want to.
“Hopefully by giving it that six-week or eight-week rest, I’ll be able to fully practice and prepare.”
Added McIlroy, who is without a win this season for the first time since 2009: “I’m here to try and win and I’m here to try and play well, but if it doesn’t happen, I’m OK with that.”