Though not a fan, Rory McIlroy can understand why some have chosen to play LIV
Since it was first introduced to the public, Rory McIlroy has been the most outspoken critic of LIV Golf and the proposed rival tour, telling reporters in 2020 he wanted to be “on the right side of history with this one.”
That hard line has softened in recent years, although he did opine earlier this year that a move by the top players to remain loyal to the PGA Tour had virtually ended the LIV Golf threat. “Who else have you got to fill the field?” he asked in February at the Genesis Invitational.
One of those top players who appeared to step in line with the Tour was Dustin Johnson, but that commitment didn’t last long. Johnson was among the 42 players who appeared on the field list for the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event that’s scheduled to be played next week in London.
On Wednesday at the Memorial, McIlroy was asked about the Tour members – who were denied conflicting-event releases into the LIV events and will likely face sanctions, fines or suspensions if they do play – who will be at the Centurion Club next week.
“I have some very close friends that are playing in this event in London, and I certainly wouldn’t want to stand in their way, for them to do what they feel is right for themselves,” McIlroy said. “It’s not something that I would do personally. But I certainly understand why some of the guys have went, and it’s something that we are all just going to keep an eye on and see what happens over these next few weeks.”
Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell were also on the field list for the first LIV tournament and McIlroy appeared to be speaking to his former European Ryder Cup teammates when he was asked if he thought the “breakaway” members wanted to play the PGA Tour any longer.
“Not really, I guess,” McIlroy said. “You have some guys in a position where they are literally not guaranteed a job next year. It’s hard to stay in the top 125 [on the FedExCup list] out here, especially when you’re a guy in your 40s and maybe you don’t hit the ball as far as you’re used to.
“Someone that isn’t guaranteed their Tour card next year, another entity comes along and says, we’ll guarantee you this amount for three years, plus you’re playing for a ton more prize money, and you’re playing less events, you can spend more time with your family. I mean, whenever you sit down and look at some of those things, it’s very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position.”
McIlroy is one of four player directors on the Tour’s policy board.