Rory McIlroy has revealed he will skip this year's Irish Open for the first time since 2007, but that he WILL NOW MAINTAIN his European Tour membership so that he can continue to play in the Ryder Cup.
McIlroy, 29, hinted at the back end of last season he would consider giving up his European Tour membership in a bid to concentrate his efforts on the PGA Tour and the majors by basing himself in the United States.
Fresh off a third consecutive top-five finish at the Genesis Open on Sunday, McIlroy explained he will play the "minimum" amount of tournaments required to retain his European Tour membership and to ensure he remains eligible to compete in Padraig Harrington's 2020 European Ryder Cup side at Whistling Straits.
Passing up European Tour membership would also have made the Northern Irishman ineligible for future European Ryder Cup captaincy.
"I wouldn't miss that [Ryder Cup] for the world," said McIlroy.
"I'm still going to be a member of the team. I'm just going to sort of play as little as I can on the European Tour to save myself for the golf that I'm playing everywhere else also."
McIlroy also confirmed he will bypass his home Irish Open for the first time in 12 years, which this year will be staged at Lahinch.
The four-time major winner claims his absence is down to wanting to best prepare for The Open at Royal Portrush that takes place two weeks later.
"If there is ever a year when I feel I can miss this Irish Open, it's this year," said McIlroy.
"If I was to play the Irish Open, The Open would be my third event in a row.
"I love the Irish Open. I've supported it my whole career. The people of Ireland are still going to see me playing golf because I'm going to play The Open and I'm sure a lot of people will travel from down south to see me play."
While nobody yet knows the four regular tournaments McIlroy will compete in on the European Tour this year in order to retain his membership, there are strong indicators for the British Masters, Scottish Open and European Masters in Switzerland (due to his partnership with Omega).