Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior WriterJun 7, 2023, 11:03 AM ET
- Senior college football writer
- Author of seven books on college football
- Graduate of the University of Georgia
TORONTO — Rory McIlroy said he’s resigned to the fact that the PGA Tour will have to accept money from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, but he’s satisfied that the LIV Golf League won’t be part of the alliance.
Speaking to reporters ahead of this week’s RBC Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf and Country Club, McIlroy said Wednesday he believes the LIV Golf League is going away after this season.
“I still hate LIV,” McIlroy said. “Like, I hate LIV. I hope it goes away, and I would fully expect that it does. 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.”
McIlroy, one of the PGA Tour’s most outspoken loyalists during its 18-month battle with the LIV Golf tour for the best players in the world, said he still has confidence in PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan but that “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.”
Monahan has been criticized for keeping PGA Tour members, including McIlroy, in the dark during negotiations with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is financing LIV Golf.
Monahan would be CEO of the new company, while Al-Rumayyan will be the chairman. Also part of that board will be Jimmy Dunne and Ed Herlihy, the two PGA Tour board members who brought Monahan and Al-Rumayyan together.
“I do,” McIlroy said about having confidence in Monahan. “And, look, 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.”
McIlroy said Monahan’s meeting with more than 100 PGA Tour players Tuesday was heated. McIlroy said much of the frustration came from players who are trying to keep their PGA Tour cards and fear that they’ll lose spots in fields of future tournaments if LIV Golf players are allowed to return to the PGA Tour.
“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.”
Monahan suspended more than 30 PGA Tour members for competing in LIV Golf tournaments without conflicting-event releases, including past major champions Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and others.
On Tuesday, Monahan said a plan was in place that would allow those players to reapply for PGA Tour membership after the 2023 season. Monahan said he wouldn’t release details until the partnership with PIF and the DP World Tour is finalized.
McIlroy said he received a text message Monday night from Dunne, who is on the PGA Tour policy board, asking if they could talk the next morning. McIlroy said he found out the news from Dunne at about 6:30 a.m. ET Tuesday, a couple of hours before other players learned about the partnership on social media and other media outlets.
McIlroy said Dunne told him, “Rory, sometimes you got 280 over water, you just got to go for it.”
“I told Jay you have galvanized everyone against something and now they are our partners,” McIlroy said. “The Saudis want to spend money in golf and it’s not going to stop. How can we get that money into golf and use it the right way? … It’s hard to keep up with people who have more money than anyone else.”
Overall, McIlroy said he believed the unexpected partnership will be good for golf.
“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 it’s going to be good for the game of professional golf,” McIlroy said. “I think it unifies it and it secures its financial future.”
Sports Illustrated reported that Greg Norman, the LIV commissioner and CEO, held a 30-minute conference call with employees on Wednesday morning to assure them LIV is alive and well.
It cited a person on the call, who was not identified, quoting Norman as saying: “The spigot is now wide open for commercial sponsorships, blue-chip companies, TV networks. LIV is and will continue to be a standalone enterprise. Our business model will not change. We changed history and we’re not going anywhere.”
An official from one of LIV Golf’s franchises told ESPN on Wednesday that teams have heard nothing from LIV Golf or Norman since news of the partnership broke.