Rory McIlroy would only have taken travel 'risk' for The Open

Four-time major winner unlikely to play in Europe later this year

Rory McIlroy will return to world No 1 if he wins the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational at TPC Southwinds in Memphis on Sunday. Picture: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy will return to world No 1 if he wins the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational at TPC Southwinds in Memphis on Sunday. Picture: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy reckons he'd only have taken a "risk" to jump on a plane and head across the Atlantic this year to play in an Open Championship.

The four-time major winner was responding to being asked about English duo Lee Westwood and Eddie Pepperell deciding not to make the journey in the opposite direction to play in this week's WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis and next week's US PGA Championship in San Francisco.

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"I understand their plight because I don't know if I would travel in the fall and go and play some of these other events in Europe," said Mcilroy, "but, if it was a major championship, it would probably be different and I probably would go over and play it.

"But that's not to say what Lee and Eddie are doing isn't right, that they feel safer and they feel that their time is better spent at home and not exposing themselves to more people and not having the chance of getting sick or getting someone else sick.

"So I completely understand where they're coming from, but, if it was an Open Championship and I had the chance to go over and play, I would probably take the risk and go and play."

McIlroy is gearing up for a busy stretch, with the WGC and US PGA being followed by three FedEx Cup Play-Off events then the US Open in New York in September.

The Masters is then scheduled to take place in November, with McIlroy hinting he is unlikely to be returning to Europe in the interim.

"Honestly, I don't know if I see myself going back to Europe this year," he added. "I don't know if I want to travel, I don't know if I want to be exposed to more things and more people.

"I'm sort of taking it week by week. I've got my schedule planned up until the US Open, which is obviously a couple weeks after the Tour Championship, and then I honestly don't have any idea what I'm going to do after that."

The 31-year-old can reclaim the world No 1 spot from Spaniard Jon Rahm if he wins on Sunday at TPC Southwinds in Memphis, where he finished fourth last year in his first outing after the huge disappointment of missing the cut in The Open at Royal Portrush.

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"I feel like this event last year was a bit of a reset for me," admitted McIlroy. "It came directly the week after The Open Championship in Portrush and it was good - I think I referred to it as getting straight back on the horse.

"It was nice to play well and got myself into the final group. So it was good to get into the final group and sort of play some good golf here last year to just sort of move forward from what happened at Portrush.

"Southwind's always been a course that I've enjoyed going back to just when it

wasn't a World Golf Championship and it was the week before the US Open, I played it a couple times and I've played well. I feel like it's a golf course that suits me."

The Northern Irishman hasn't been able to find any real consistency since the PGA Tour re-started, but is hoping this can be the week to kickstart things.

"Over the last four weeks, there's been some decent golf in there, but obviously some pretty bad stuff, too," he said.

"I just want to put four solid rounds together. I haven't really done that since coming

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back out of the lockdown. And, if I do put four solid rounds together, then I know I'll have a chance to win."

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