The Northern Irishman needs to play four European Tour tournaments outside the majors and World Golf Championship events but currently only has two on his schedule and could even miss the Irish Open, an event he has hosted for the last four years.

Players must be a member of the European Tour to be eligible to play in the Ryder Cup and, under new regulations introduced in January 2017, "Players cannot be a European Ryder Cup captain or a vice-captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfill their minimum event obligation in any season, from 2018 onwards."

"I am starting my year off in the (United) States and that will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess from there," the 29-year-old McIlroy said before the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship in Dubai.

McIlroy during the DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am. PHOTO: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

"I guess my thing is that I want to play against the strongest fields week-in and week-out and for the most part of the season that is in America.

"If I want to continue to contend in the majors and to continue my journey back towards the top of the game, then that's what I want to do.

"Right now that is all sort of up in the air, but if it were to be that I don't fulfill my membership next year, it's not a Ryder Cup year so it's not the end of the world.

"I am always going to want to play the Ryder Cup, so if that does happen so be it and I will try and make the Ryder Cup team the year after."

McIlroy will play in the European Masters in Switzerland but believes the "true European Tour season" does not start until July, when he will decide between the Irish Open at Lahinch or Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club.

"I am going to try and play the week before majors as three of my four major wins have been by playing the week before," he said.