Hello. Welcome to The Slam, NCG’s look back on the golfing week. And boy does Rory McIlroy make writing this easy.

Ever since he revealed that he is cutting back on his European Tour schedule in 2019, everyone in the golfing universe had one question leaving their lips in hushed tones: “Will he play the Irish Open?”

Surely – SURELY – he’ll play in the tournament that he’s hosted for the last four years?

Well now we know and the answer is a resounding… ‘no’.

But it’s OK, because it’s not forever. McIlroy, who will play the Scottish Open the week before The Open’s return to Royal Portrush in his homeland, implied it will only be this one time.

Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland, he said:

If there is ever a year when I feel I can miss this Irish Open, it’s this year.

“If I was to play the Irish Open, the Open Championship would be my third event in a row.

“For me, that’s not the best way to prepare for what could be the biggest event of my life.

“I love the Irish Open. I’ve supported it in my whole career. The people of Ireland are still going to see me playing golf because I’m going to play the Open Championship and I’m sure a lot of people will travel from down south to see me play.

McIlroy hosted the Irish Open from 2015 to 2018, winning it at the K Club in 2016, and Paul McGinley will take over hosting duties at Lahinch this time around.

But McIlroy believes those who have criticised his decision to cut down on his European Tour schedule – and risk losing the right to one day captain the Ryder Cup side – need to pipe down.

They don’t see the bigger picture. I wouldn’t miss [the Ryder Cup] for the world. I’m still going to be a member of the team.

“I’m just going to play as little as I can [on the European Tour] to save myself for the golf that I’m playing everywhere else.

“My main focus is the major championships, the WGCs, the biggest events in the world wherever they may be.

“They don’t know the ins and outs of your life. It’s easy to criticise from far away because you don’t know the details.

“I’m sure people are going to be upset but at the same time, if it means that it gives me a better chance to win The Open, and prepare well for Portrush, I’m going to do it.

“I’m going to make decisions that are the best thing for me. If that upsets anyone, then I’m sorry – that’s not my problem, that’s their problem.

McIlroy, as is well documented, is just a Masters victory away from becoming just the sixth player to complete the Grand Slam.

He is also on record on an annual basis waxing lyrical about how desperate he is for that Green Jacket, which is why it was a surprise to see that tact has changed somewhat this year:

If I could pick one tournament to win this year, it would be Portrush. I would definitely have Augusta on the backburner.

“I never thought I would play a major in Northern Ireland. It would be the biggest achievement of my career if I was able to win it.

Or is it? We see what you’re doing there, Rory, you’re not fooling anyone.

Now, how much of my life savings should I chuck at McIlroy to slip into green in April?

No drive for Tiger

Tiger Woods

I know, I know, you don’t care about Tiger Woods, but we all wondered which of the Honda Classic or Arnold Palmer Invitational Tiger Woods would play, if any.

Having entered the Genesis Open then this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, and making the assumption that he’ll head to The Players, it meant one of the big guns in between was going to be left off the GOAT’s schedule.

But which one? Well we didn’t have to wait long…

Even though you don’t care about Tiger, you can see his entire 2019 schedule here.

Leg day

I wonder what Phil Mickelson has been working on in the gym…

Oh. That’ll do it.

Anything else?

Before you go back to your lives, here are some things on National Club Golfer that you absolutely should be reading…

Slow play has been the talk of the town in these past few weeks, thanks to JB Holmes’ antics at the Genesis Open, so Mark Townsend and I sounded off about it in Alternate Shot. Steve Carroll has also revealed five things your golf club can do to improve the pace of play.

Also at Riviera, Mark enjoyed Justin Thomas pulling off what he calls the “hardest shot in golf” and explains why only the pros can pull it off, while in a fascinating interview, Colin Montgomerie reveals what the pros are really thinking about the new Rules of Golf.

The weather’s looking a bit nicer this weekend, so get out there and enjoy it.