McIlroy will fly there straight after this week’s Omega Mission Hills World Cup on Hainan Island in China where he’ll join Japan’s ‘Bashful Prince’, firstly in a nine-hole pro-am format before the pair play a skins match over the inward nine.
McIlroy spoke about only his second visit to Japan after he managed to save par at the last to hand Ireland a share of second place on nine under par after the opening day of the World Cup on Hainan Island.
McIlroy’s length off the tee proved pivotal for himself and Graeme McDowell to be quickly in contention and tied with Scotland and two shots behind the Australian duo of Richard Green and Brendan Jones who carded an 11-under par fourball tally on the volcanic Blackstone course.
McIlroy indicated just 1,500 people have been invited to Monday’s event, with all monies raised going to the appeal following the catastrophic damage caused in March by an earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami.
The 19-year old Ishikawa immediately reacted by agreeing to pledge every cent of prize money this year, including the €840,000 he’s already earned on the Japan Tour in 2011, plus $500 (€375) for every birdie he makes.
“It’s all to do with raising funds for the earthquake and tsunami appeal, with the skins match between Ryo and myself set to raise $10,000 a hole,” said McIlroy after the first day of the World Cup.
“There’s also a charity auction that should also raise a good sum.
“I went to Haiti the week before the US Open and that really put me in good stead going to Congressional because I saw the effects of the earthquake. I thought to myself at times during that US Open why I am getting nervous standing over a golf shot, when I have just visited a country where millions of people’s lives have been turned upside down by an earthquake?
“I’m also going to Bangkok in a few weeks for a tournament and half the city is still under water and there’s even a few Thai players out competing whose houses are still under water.
“All I do for a living is play golf but if I can just help a handful of people regain a portion of their life by playing in events like Ryo and myself are competing in Japan on Monday, then I could not be happier.”
McIlroy and McDowell were close to being slapped with a two-stroke penalty even before tee-off on day one of the World Cup. There was no sight of the Irish pair with just two minutes before their official tee-off on the Blackstone course in Haikou.
Finally, the pair arrived with a relieved European Tour chief referee, John Paramour remarking: “Nice of you to join us, gentlemen.”
Meanwhile Graeme McDowell has expressed complete surprise World number 3 Lee Westwood has taken the step of rejoining the PGA Tour from next year. Westwood has played the PGA Tour full-time once before in 2005 and only played the bare minimum 15 tournaments as required under PGA Tour membership rules.
But after criticism of the Players’ Championship and remarking last September at the European Masters that “I’d rather be here in Switzerland”, the double European Tour number one has changed his tune.
“One of the boys mentioned that to me today and I have to say I am very surprised after not taking up membership last year,” said McDowell.
“Then there’s also his comments about the PGA Tour and what not.
“His comments at the time were strong and he had a lot of conviction in his decision last time round. But not to take up PGA Tour membership in a Ryder Cup year as Lee chose not to do last year and now to take up in a Ryder Cup year is strange.”