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European Tour is a stepping stone to ultimate goal of PGA Tour: Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy practices for this weekend's Sentry Tournament of Champions, his first event of 2019.
Rory McIlroy practices for this weekend's Sentry Tournament of Champions, his first event of 2019.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Rory McIlroy says he is going to 'do what (he wants)' this season and play more of his golf across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Holywood golfer is never shy on saying what he thinks and has been unsurprisingly frank about his allegiance (or lack of) to his home European Tour.

McIlroy played only five European Tour tournaments in each of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons and just six last year.

He must play at least four events, not counting majors or World Golf Championships, in order to hold on to the European Tour membership. It is doubtful whether or not the world number eight will tee it up at the Irish Open at Lahinch in July, while rumours suggest he could play in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the BMW PGA Championship and both the Scottish Open and the Omega European Masters.

Outside those events, McIlroy is more likely to tee it up on the US PGA Tour.

"The ultimate goal is here (the US)," he said. "The European Tour is a stepping stone. That's the truth. The European Tour is a stepping stone. That's the way it is.

"It's tough. I still want to support the European Tour, and I talk about this loyalty thing with Europe. It's not as though I'm just starting out and jumping ship.

"I've done my time. I've done everything I feel like I need to do to say OK, I'm going to make my own decisions and do what I want."

McIlroy makes his 2019 debut this week when he tees it up at the PGA Tour's Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii (Thursday tee-time 10pm GMT). A win could see McIlroy lifted three places to fifth in the world rankings - proving another of his points about placing his focus more firmly on US golf.

"I think as well with the world ranking points, everyone out here, all of their contracts with sponsors, it's all about world ranking points," he said. "If players are getting paid more and earning more world ranking points, why would you play over there?"

McIlroy was keen to reassure his European supporters that it was far from the end of the road for their chances to see him in action.

"I'm still going to play in Europe and (the fans) are still going to see me play - maybe not as regularly as it used to be - but that's just a product of where the global schedule is right now and where my life is right now," he told "I've travelled the world for 12 years playing professional golf. I'm still going to be a world player, but I don't want that hopping back and forth over the Atlantic as much as I used to do."

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