McIlroy to make Kapalua debut in January

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Rory McIlroy will kick off the new year in Hawaii for the first time in his career.

The four-time major champion has officially committed to make his tournament debut in the winners-only Sentry Tournament of Champions, held Jan. 3-6 in Maui. He qualified by virtue of his three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.

"It's a meaningful tournament to qualify for, because you have to win to get in, and winning is not easy on the PGA Tour," McIlroy said in a release. "I can't wait to get out to Maui in January to experience the Plantation Course and everything the island has to offer."

McIlroy was eligible for the limited-field event six other times between 2011-17, but he bypassed every opportunity to tee it up at Kapalua. He was hardly alone in that choice, as the field typically includes a handful of players who decline, often European stars whose playing schedules can reach into November. Tiger Woods hasn't played the event since 2005, while Phil Mickelson last visited Maui in 2001.

But the event has picked up increased interest from younger American stars, and it boasts an impressive recent run of recent tournament champions in Patrick Reed (2015), Jordan Spieth (2016), Justin Thomas (2017) and Dustin Johnson (2018).

There are currently 30 players who have qualified by virtue of tournament victories this year, with each winner of a PGA Tour event through the RSM Classic in November also eligible for the no-cut event.


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