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Golf Tidbits: McIlroy coming to the PGA Tour

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After much speculation regarding his status, Rory McIlroy announced earlier this week that he will join the PGA Tour next season.

The announcement, which the promising 20-year-old from Northern Ireland made in Hong Kong, paled in comparison to Tiger Woods announcing, "Hello World" in August of 1996.

It would be easy to miss the fact that McIlroy played in 11 PGA Tour events in 2009, including all four majors and the three U.S. based World Golf Championships events, though that's not to say the former top-ranked amateur didn't make much noise in those events.

In his 11 PGA Tour starts, McIlroy earned $969,112. Combining the majors and the WGC events, the youngster finished in the top 20 five times, including a share of third at the PGA Championship. That was his best finish on this side of the Atlantic.

"You can see from my efforts in the majors and the World Golf Championships this year that I like to play in those fields because I just seem to be up for them, and they offer a bigger challenge," stated McIlroy.

"I can't thank the European Tour enough, but I'm just in a privileged position where I play wherever I want, and besides I earned enough money in U.S. Tour events to get my card so I've taken out membership."

To maintain his full-time status on the PGA Tour, McIlroy would need to play 15 PGA Tour events in 2010. That should not be a problem, as the 20-year-old is competing in his 29th worldwide event this week and will play No. 30 next week in Dubai.

McIlroy started four PGA Tour events between the beginning of March and the first week of May, but only returned to the States four more times after that. With his earnings this year, he would have played in at least the first FedEx Cup playoff event, so adding events will not be an issue.

Despite the globetrotting, McIlroy has missed just two cuts worldwide, racked up 12 top-10 finishes and along the way collected his first European Tour win in Dubai.

Thanks to his stellar play in his second full season as a professional, McIlroy has climbed to No. 17 in the world ranking. He is one of five players in their 20s in the top 20, but just one of those five -- Sean O'Hair -- was a full-time member of the PGA Tour in 2009.

Ian Poulter, who is ranked 13th in the world, did offer a warning that the move is going to be harder than McIlroy thinks it will be.

"Rory has got himself into a position where he's 17 in the world. He has quickly put himself on the big stage," said Poulter. "If he wants to play on the PGA Tour, then great. He's going to play in tournaments which have better fields than the ones he's in now.

"If he wants to take his card up it's going to be hard work. I've done it for the last few years. It's very tiring, but you can keep your status in Europe and on the PGA Tour and finish high on both lists."

Poulter's warning has plenty of merit behind it, but so does this from two- time major champion Mark O'Meara, "He's young and when you're young you might as well go for it."

That from a man who thinks McIlroy is better than Tiger Woods was at the same age.

IT PAYS TO BE TIGER WOODS, MOST OF THE TIME

Having made enough money to care for generations of his family, it's obvious that it pays to be Tiger Woods. But what does the price of fame cost him?

That question is incalculable, for the most part. This week, however, there is tangible evidence of what he loses on and off the course.

Do a quick Internet search and you can easily find pictures of Woods' new house that he is having built in Florida. One website that has posted the pictures even has a yes-or-no poll asking, "Is Tiger Woods' new home too ugly for Jupiter Island?"

With over 5,000 votes cast, "yes" holds a commanding lead with more than 59% of the votes.

On the course, Woods is playing in Australia this weekend for the first time in 11 years. What drew Woods to tee it up Down Under? How about a cool $3 million.

Well, sort of. That was the amount organizers paid for him to show up, but the tax hit in Australia for that amount of money is just under 50%.

So he'll collect a little more than $1.5 mill just for showing up. After shooting 66 to share the first-round lead, Woods could earn another $259,000 and change if he goes on to win the title at the JBWere Masters.

All told, not a bad week for a guy who will soon become the first $1 billion athlete.

MINI-TIDBITS

- There are plenty of eyes on this week's PGA Tour event because it is the last opportunity for players to get into the top 125 on the money list and keep their tour cards for 2010. Well, the same fight is going on this week on the European Tour. Among the European Tour regulars on the outside looking in right now are Jean-Francois Lucquin, Gary Murphy, Alejandro Canizares and Jose-Filipe Lima.

- Erik Compton's recovery from a second heart transplant continues, and he continues to amaze. In attempting to earn his 2010 PGA Tour card through the Qualifying Tournament, Compton won his first stage qualifier.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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