Rory McIlroy accepts invite to play in next week's British Masters in huge boost to golf in the north-east
Rory McIlroy has handed the British Masters and north-east golf a huge boost by accepting an invitation to play in next week’s tournament in Newcastle. The four-time major-winner revealed his intention to appear at Close House, following his failure to qualify for this week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta. The PGA Tour’s loss is the European Tour’s gain as the 28-year-old plays his final few events before taking a long and much-needed break. Lee Westwood is promoting the British Masters and said he is “thrilled” by his Ryder Cup teammate’s presence in a field also boasting Sergio Garcia. McIlroy has not featured in the British Masters since 2008 after it went off the schedule between 2009 and 2015. His presence will inevitably see a marked increase in ticket sales, because, despite failing to win so far in 2017, McIlroy remains one of the biggest draws in the game. He will be pulling all the stops out to prevail, as well, as he really does not want to go trophy-less for the first time this decade. McIlroy has fallen to eighth in the world Credit: Getty Images North America McIlroy has already committed to the Dunhill Links in Fife in two weeks’ time. Adding the British Masters - which was revived three years ago because of the efforts of the Tour and Sky Sports - will allow him to reach the minimum of five events he requires as a member. “I'm looking forward to playing my first British Masters for a while. I kind of had it in the back of my mind that if I didn't make the Tour Championship then there was a chance to tee it up at Close House, so I have decided to do that before finishing my season off the next week at the Dunhill Links,” he said. “I'm pleased to be able to support Lee as well. I know what it's like to be a tournament host so I know how much the British Masters means to Lee this year. “Teeing it up next week gives me one more chance to end 2017 on a high as well. If I can sign off the year with a win or two in Newcastle and then St Andrews I would take so many positives into my six-week recovery period when I am going to reset mentally and physically and concentrate on getting myself in the right shape for next year.” As he indicated, McIlroy will still skip the Race to Dubai run-in and take a three-and-a-half month break after the Dunhill. He has suffered with a rib injury all year and is determined to give it time to make a full recovery. He is evidently in need of the rest. Last year’s FedEx champion could only finish in 58th in Chicago on Sunday, when he needed a top-four finish to make it into the limited 30-man field who will shootout for the FedEx bonus. The latest setback caused him to fall to eighth in the world, his lowest ranking in more than three years. McIlroy is not in Georgia, but Justin Rose is and he believes a win at the Tour Championship will be sufficient for him to collect £8.5m, which would be the biggest payout in the history of English golf. The 37-year-old has risen to eighth in the FedEx Cup courtesy of his second place behind the Australian Marc Leishman on Sunday, his best finish since losing to Sergio Garcia in the Masters play-off in April. Only the top five in the FedEx standings are guaranteed to scoop the $10m bonus if they win the East Lake tournament, but Rose thinks his first win of the year would be enough. Rose is eyeing a £8.5million pay day Credit: USA Today Sports “I feel good about being in eighth,” Rose said. “I’ve given myself a realistic chance. The guys in the top five still have to have a really good week to beat you out. I won’t be totally in control of own destiny in Atlanta, but it’s not far off.” Rose appears to be peaking at the right time in his FedEx push. After missing the cut at the USPGA Championship, Rose recorded two 10th places in the first two FedEx events and followed this up with his fine performance at the BMW Championship. Starting the day seven behind Leishman, Rose got to within two before Leishman lengthened clear to win by five, breaking Tiger Woods’s tournament scoring record on 23-under. “It's a lot better than it was three weeks ago - it's been a nice play-off run, Rose said. “If I can keep trending the way I have, I have a chance.” Rose’s countryman Paul Casey is in 10th in the standings and would also fancy his chances of landing the jackpot should he win the tournament proper.