McIlroy backs PGA return plan, will play first three events

Miami (AFP) –


World number one Rory McIlroy supports the US PGA Tour health and safety plan for returning to competition in June, saying he plans to play all three events next month.

McIlroy, whose four titles last year included the Tour and Players championships, liked the safeguards outlined Wednesday by the PGA, including coronavirus tests and events played without spectators.

"I believe the PGA Tour has a very robust policy in place, and, if they can execute it, I feel comfortable getting back out there and playing and traveling," McIlroy said.

The 31-year-old, four-time major winner from Northern Ireland plans to tee off when the PGA resumes its season on June 11 at Colonial in the Charles Schwab Challenge at Fort Worth, Texas.

McIlroy also intends to play the next two PGA tournaments, the Heritage in South Carolina on June 18-21 and the Travelers Championship on June 25-28 at TPC River Highlands near Hartford, Connecticut -- all without spectators.

"We're going to have to take as many precautions as possible to be able to put tour events on again," McIlroy said.

"If they can execute it the right way, I see no reason why we can't start June 11. If we do, I'll be ready to go in Fort Worth."

Plans would have players test for the deadly virus before coming to the venue and again upon arrival, then undergo daily temperature checks at the course and such measures as face masks and social distancing as needed.

"If you take the necessary precautions -- wearing a face covering, washing your hands frequently, sanitizing your hands frequently, practicing social distancing -- I really do think it's possible," McIlroy said.

"If everyone follows the guidelines and does the right thing, I see no reason why you wouldn't be comfortable with the logistics of getting to an event and from."

The PGA Tour will stage a fourth event in Detroit in early July without spectators before the possibility of allowing fans at a tournament July 9-12 at the John Deere Classic in Sylvis, Illinois.

"It's the new normal for right now," McIlroy said. "That's just got to be for us to keep everyone safe and get the PGA Tour back up and running again."

McIlroy doesn't see a diminished impact due to the lack of roars from the crowds.

"The atmosphere isn't going to be the same as if there's 50,000 people on the golf course, but I don't think it in any way will take away from the integrity of the competition or the quality of the golf," McIlroy said.

- 'Eager to play again' -

For now, the schedule includes the PGA Championship in August followed by the tour playoffs with the US Open and Ryder Cup in September and the Masters in early November.

"Things could definitely be coming thick and fast," McIlroy said. "You have to be ready to go. Stay sharp. Stay ready.

"It's pedal to the metal to the end of the year to try to get as much golf in as possible. I personally am looking forward to that, if it can happen."

The British Open was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"If we can get the other three majors in, do them in the right way and make sure that you're keeping everyone safe while they're on, it's something I'm looking forward to," McIlroy said.

"I'm eager to play again and I'll play as much as necessary to give myself a chance to win tournaments and keep myself at the top of the world ranking."

McIlroy has tried to pick up some lessons from retired NBA star Michael Jordan while watching "The Last Dance" documentary and staying fit, but he yearns to compete again.

"I really do miss the competition," he said. "I miss the buzz of getting into contention and playing in those last few groups on a Sunday.

"I also miss the locker room. I miss people. I miss being around people. I miss the banter that goes on in the locker rooms and the camaraderie that people don't see."