Rory McIlroy spent much of the past year as the public face of the stalwart PGA Tour’s battle against LIV Golf, and it was clear Wednesday he was still trying to process the events that led the two entities to join forces with the DP World Tour into one golf giant.
Speaking to reporters at the Canadian Open in Toronto, he said he learned that the three organizations would come under one umbrella Tuesday just like everyone else. And it’s clear he’s left to figure out how the players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour move forward, starting with himself.
“It’s hard for me to not sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb and feeling like I’ve put myself out there and this is what happens,” said McIlroy, ranked No. 3 in the world. “Again, removing myself from the situation, I see how this is better for the game of golf. There’s no denying that. But for me as an individual, yeah, I, there’s just going to have to be conversations that are had.”
McIlroy, 34, has felt the burden of the golf war between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, which swooped in last year to snatch some of the biggest names in the game away from the tour with big money backed by Saudi Arabia. His off-course duties have included organizing players-only meetings and formulating new models for the PGA Tour while serving as a player director on the Tour Policy Board. He also had been the most argent PGA Tour player to publicly point the finger at the upstart LIV Golf League and CEO Greg Norman.
Under terms of the agreement announced Tuesday, the PGA and DP World tours are pairing with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia to form a new golf circuit. The PGA Tour and LIV Golf have been involved in litigation, which now is settled with the merger.
“I don’t understand all the intricacies of what’s going on. It’s a very, what’s the word? There’s a lot of ambiguity,” McIlroy said. “There’s a lot of things still to be sort of thrashed out. But at least it means that the litigation goes away, which has been a massive burden for everyone that’s involved with the tour and that’s playing the tour. And we can start to work toward some sort of way of unifying the game at the elite level.”
At a meeting with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on Tuesday, some players reportedly called for his resignation, angry that Monahan had agreed to partner with the Saudis.
McIlroy said he still supports Monahan, even as the sides are going to have to find a way to bring the LIV defectors back under one tent. McIlroy said that won’t be easy.
“I’ve dealt with Jay a lot closer than a lot of those guys have. From where we were a couple of weeks ago to where we are today, I think the future of the PGA Tour looks brighter as a whole, as an entity,” he said. “What that looks like for individual players in terms of keeping a tour card and bringing players back into the fold and then that sacrifices other people, that’s where the anger comes from, right. And I understand that.
“There still has to be consequences to actions. The people that left the PGA Tour irreparably harmed this tour, started litigation against it. Like, we can’t just welcome them back in. Like, that’s not going to happen. And I think that was the one thing that Jay was trying to get across yesterday is like, guys, we’re not just going to bring these guys back in and pretend like nothing’s happened. That is not going to happen.”
Last year, Monahan criticized those who accepted Saudi money, decrying the country’s record of human rights violations and its involvement in 9/11. McIlroy said partnering with the Saudis, with Monahan as CEO, protects the game.
“Whether you like it or not, the PIF were going to keep spending the money in golf,” the Northern Irishman said. “At least the PGA Tour now controls how that money is spent. So, you know, if you’re thinking about one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world, would you rather have them as a partner or an enemy? At the end of the day, money talks and you would rather have them as a partner.”
As uncomfortable as that stance left many in the golf world since Tuesday’s announcement, McIlroy said golf must play the long game.
“I look at 10 years down the line,” McIlroy said. “I think ultimately this is going to be, it’s going to be good for the game of professional golf. … It unifies it and it secures its financial future.”
–Field Level Media
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