Rory McIlroy has recently softened his stance in regards to LIV Golf, having initially prevailing as one of the league’s biggest critics amid its battle with the PGA Tour
Rory McIlroy has decided to dial down his critical approach to the LIV Golf setup in recent months, but it appears a number of his fellow PGA Tour stars are not in agreement.
McIlroy had initially portrayed himself as one of LIV’s biggest critics, pledging his allegiances to the PGA Tour in professional golf’s ugly civil war. With a peace deal between the two looming though, McIlroy appears keen to squash his previous bad blood moving forward.
Most recently the four-time major champion revealed that he felt those who opted to make the Saudi switch should be allowed a route back to the PGA Tour without punishment.
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Additionally McIlroy has welcomed the investment of LIV backers the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF), despite previous grievances. Whilst it appears the world No.2 is keen to start building bridges, some of his fellow Tour players are not on board.
Speaking at last week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Jordan Spieth claimed the PGA Tour no longer need the Saudi investment, after Sports Strategic Sports Group (SSG) pledged to invest £2.4billion ($3bn) into the circuit’s new for-profit entity.
This is of course in contrast to McIlroy’s change of heart, which led to an hour-long phone call between the pair on the topic. McIlroy revealed: “I talked to [Spieth] about his comments. And we had a pretty frank discussion.
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“My thing was if I’m the original investor that thought that they were going to get this deal done back in July, and I’m hearing a board member say that, you know, we don’t really need them, now, how are they going to think about that, what are they gonna feel about that?
“They are still sitting out there with hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions, that they’re gonna pour into sport. And I know what Jordan was saying, I absolutely know what he was saying and what he was trying to say. But if I were PIF and I was hearing that coming from here, the day after doing this SSG deal, it wouldn’t have made me too happy, I guess?”
Spieth is not alone though in offering a differing view to McIlroy on future investment from PIF. Per Golf Digest, Adam Scott claimed: “We don’t need [PIF investment] purely from a financial standpoint.”
Both Scott and Spieth could play important roles in a proposed ‘merger’ between the PGA Tour and LIV. The pair are both Player Directors on the PGA Tour’s Policy Board, who have taken on the role of representing the playing membership in the boardroom. McIlroy too was a part of the select group of players but opted to give up his role late last year.
McIlroy’s calls for LIV players to return without any consequence has also been questioned by his peers too. Most notably Justin Thomas, who feels the likes of Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka should face some punishment before they are allowed to play PGA Tour golf again.
“I would say that there’s a handful of players on LIV that would make the tour a better place, but I’m definitely not in the agreement that they should just be able to come back that easily,” Thomas claimed. “I think there’s a lot of us that made sacrifices and were very – whether it’s true to our word or what we believe in or just didn’t make that decision, and I totally understand that things are changing and things are getting better.
“I would have a hard time with it, and I think a lot of guys would have a hard time with it, and I’m sure we don’t need to convince you why we would have a hard time with it.”
This is an opinion also shared by world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler. Whilst McIlroy’s peaceful return policy would no doubt be welcomed by those on the LIV circuit, Scheffler believes the decision would not be a popular one among those who remained loyal to the PGA Tour
“You had some guys that left our tour and then sued our tour,” Scheffler said this week. “That wasn’t really in great taste. Then you had some other guys that just left and they wanted to do something different.
“Everybody made their own decision and I have no bad blood towards the guys that left. But a path towards coming back, I think it wouldn’t be a very popular decision, I think, if they just came back like nothing ever happened.”
One man who has been linked heavily with the LIV Golf setup since its formation in 2022 is Rickie Fowler, and despite staying relatively netural in the recent dispute between the two tours, he also disagrees with McIlroy’s welcoming back policy.
“[I’m] probably not in the same spot as Rory,” Fowler said. “Maybe we started in a similar area, but I think there’s been a little roller-coaster ride on his part. As far as decisions to go elsewhere and just welcome back, I don’t think it’s a direct road [back to the Tour].
“I mean, they made decisions and there has to be something for it. Whether how small or big, that’s not up to me.”