Rory McIlroy on Wednesday welcomed the PGA Tour’s shock merger with the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf but said rebel players who joined the upstart circuit should not be granted an automatic return to the sport.
Northern Ireland star McIlroy, one of the staunchest critics of LIV Golf, said while he still seethed with “hatred” towards the upstart circuit, he believed Tuesday’s deal would secure the financial future of the sport.
“I think ultimately, when I try to remove myself from the situation and I look at the bigger picture and I look at 10 years down the line, I think ultimately this is going to be good for the game of professional golf,” McIlroy said.
“It unifies it and it secures its financial future.”
McIlroy was speaking on the eve of this week’s PGA Canadian Open in Toronto in his first comments since Tuesday’s bombshell agreement was revealed.
Under the new deal, the PGA Tour and Europe’s DP World Tour said they had signed an agreement with LIV’s Saudi backers that will lead to “a new collectively owned, for-profit entity.”
The dramatic volte face comes after more than a year of bitter acrimony throughout golf that has torn at the fabric of the sport.
McIlroy is widely reported to have turned down an offer in the region of $400 million to switch to LIV but on Wednesday denied ever receiving a bid for his services.
“I was never offered any money,” McIlroy said.
The Northern Irishman, however, said he understood anger from fellow professionals against PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan — but insisted he still had confidence in the under-fire tour chief.
“I’ve dealt with Jay a lot closer than a lot of those guys have,” McIlroy said.
“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.”
– ‘I still hate LIV’ –
However, McIlroy is adamant that there should be no automatic pathway back into the sport for the players who switched to LIV last year.
“There still has to be consequences to actions,” McIlroy said.
“The people that left the PGA Tour irreparably harmed this tour, started litigation against it. Like, we can’t just welcome them back in. 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 has happened.’
“That is not going to happen.”
McIlroy also agreed that players who remained loyal to the PGA Tour by turning down lucrative offers to join LIV should be “made whole” financially.
“The simple answer is yes,” McIlroy said. “The complex answer is how does that happen, right? That’s all a gray area and up in the air at the minute.”
McIlroy also argued that Tuesday’s agreement between the PGA and DP World Tours and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund — the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund that bankrolled LIV — was not a “merger” with LIV.
“It’s not LIV. I think that’s the thing. I still hate LIV. Like, I hate LIV. Like, I hope it goes away,” McIlroy said.
“And I would fully expect that it does. And I think that’s where the distinction here is. This is the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the PIF. Very different from LIV.
“All I’ve tried to do is protect what the PGA Tour is and what the PGA Tour stands for. And I think it will continue to do that.”
© Agence France-Presse