Rory McIlroy’s 2012 could power PGA Tour revival

At last week's Atlanta Athletic Club, the galleries for Rory McIlroy equaled those of any other golfer with the possible exception of Tiger Woods (not an issue on the weekend), Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott/Steve Williams. It's proof of one of golf's immutable truths: charisma + victory = popularity.

Which is why McIlroy's plans to rejoin the PGA Tour in 2012, along with the more recent news of his projected tournament schedule, are major news. We're in a transitional time here in golf, with Woods' star firmly in decline and Mickelson unable to sustain strong runs from week to week, or even day to day. The world of golf needs someone to step up and seize the mantle of must-watch golfer for the next decade, and if Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and other Americans aren't going to get the job done, it may as well be McIlroy. The Tour desperately needs a go-to golfer to promote for more than the handful of weeks that Woods deigns to play, and McIlroy fits that bill perfectly.

Here, according to Alex Miceli in Golfweek, is McIlroy's projected schedule for 2012:

— Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
— Omega Dubai Desert Classic
— WGC-Accenture Match Play
— The Honda Classic
— WGC-Cadillac Championship
— Arnold Palmer Invitational
— Masters
— Maybank Malaysian Open
— Wells Fargo Championship
— The Players Championship
— BMW PGA Championship
— U.S. Open
— British Open
— WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
— PGA Championship
— Barclays
— Deutsche Bank Championship
— BMW Championship
— Tour Championship
— Ryder Cup
— Dunhill Links

It's likely he'll play more events on the European Tour after the Tour Championship. Of note: if he manages to make it all the way to Atlanta for the Tour Championship, he'll have completed the 15 events necessary to retain his PGA Tour card. Also of note: he won't be playing the Memorial this year, instead switching to Arnold Palmer's Invitational.  (Unfounded-rumor alert: could it be because Nicklaus said last month that it's too early to name McIlroy golf's next superstar? Probably not.)

Bottom line, McIlroy brings an element of youth and energy to golf that nobody, not even Woods or Mickelson, can match. And while the "death of American golf" stories are overblown, we're certainly in line for some very good golf in America in 2012.