Conciliatory Rory : Get a deal done and move forward

Conciliatory Rory : Get a deal done and move forward

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – There was a PGA Tour policy board meeting Monday evening and another on Tuesday, which isn’t exactly the stuff of headlines considering the board’s frenzied operating tempo the last few months. It does, however, suggest something big is brewing.

The speculation at Pebble Beach and this week’s signature event is that the Tour is closing in on a deal with Strategic Sports Group, a private equity group led by Fenway Sports, to become a minority investor in PGA Tour Enterprises, the for-profit amalgamation that would, in theory, include the Tour, European circuit and LIV Golf.

For his part, Rory McIlroy is anxiously watching it unfold from the sidelines.

“I just hope they get [a deal] done,” McIlroy said Tuesday. “I know that they were supposed to vote on [the deal between the Tour and SSG] Sunday night and there was a delay, they were supposed to vote on it last night and there was a delay. I feel like this thing could have been over and done with months ago.

“I think just for all of our sakes that the sooner that we sort of get out of it and we have a path forward, the better.”

In November, McIlroy resigned from the policy board with another year remaining on his term, telling reporters that “something had to give,” and while he clearly isn’t suffering from any form of buyer’s remorse, the Northern Irishman, like many in the game, is ready to move on.

“I've come to the realization I'm not here to change people's minds. I'm here, especially when I was at the board level, trying to give them the full picture of where things are at and hopefully where things are going to go,” he said. “They can do with that information what they want.”

In many ways McIlroy is the harbinger of professional golf. When LIV Golf first surfaced as an “irrational” threat to the PGA Tour, he emphatically embraced the role of antagonist and now that the Tour is vying to make Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund an investor in PGA Tour Enterprises, his tenor and tone have swung dramatically but are no less clear.

While the ongoing negotiations between the Tour, PIF and SSG have prompted many on both sides of the divide to soften their stance, McIlroy’s light touch on Tuesday following news that Tyrrell Hatton had joined LIV Golf spoke volumes.

“I had a long talk with Tyrrell on Sunday, completely understood where he was coming from,” McIlroy said. “It got to the point where they negotiated and got to a place where he was comfortable and he has to do what he feels is right for him. I'm not going to stand in anyone's way from making money and if what they deem life changing money, like absolutely.”

According to McIlroy, he had a similar conversation with Jon Rahm before he jumped to the breakaway league late last year and even Hatton’s status as a member of McIlroy’s TGL team, which is currently contingent on a player’s status as a Tour member, didn’t evoke even the slightest hint of bitterness or vitriol.

“I'm not going to stand in someone's way. He hasn't earned a penny from TGL, so I wouldn't make him pay to get out of anything,” McIlroy said. “Tyrrell might still play TGL in 10 months' time depending on what happens.”

But the most telling sign that McIlroy and, by default, the professional game is ready to move on, regardless of the concessions that must be made, came when he was asked how those who left the Tour to join the breakaway circuit might be allowed back if there’s a definitive agreement that combines the Tour, European circuit and LIV Golf under a new, for-profit entity.

“If people still have eligibility on this tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try and do something, let them come back,” McIlroy said. “I think it's hard to punish people. I don't think there should be a punishment, obviously I've changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA Tour and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties.

“It would be much better being together and moving forward together for the good of the game.”

Whether its age or battle fatigue or simply a desire to put the last few contentious years behind him, McIlroy has shed the animosity that prompted him to tell reporters last summer that he’d “rather retire” than play in 54-hole, team events. No longer part of the official process, the 24-time Tour winner has embraced a more conciliatory approach and a belief that it’s time to move on.