Rory McIlroy believes LIV Golf players should be granted amnesties and be allowed to appear on the traditional tours again “unpunished” in the wake of the confirmation of Tyrrell Hatton’s £50 million move to the Saudi-funded circuit.
McIlroy revealed on Tuesday night that he spoke to Hatton on Sunday, just a few hours before the Englishman decided to jump ship and enlist on Jon Rahm’s LIV team and did not try to persuade his friend to stay on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
In his latest, but perhaps most emphatic climbdown concerning the Greg Norman enterprise, McIlroy admitted that he has “changed his tune” as formerly the most vocal LIV critic. But in his desire to put the sport first, the world No 2 is adamant that the factions need to come together in the current merger negotiations of the Tours with the £600 billion Saudi Public Investment Fund.
“If people still have eligibility on this [the PGA] Tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try and do something, and let them come back… well, I don’t think there should be a punishment,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy previously welcomed the sanctions that saw the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka banned from the PGA Tour and Europe Ryder Cup legends like Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood resign from the DP World Tour.
“Obviously, I’ve changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and that having a diminished PGA Tour and a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties,” McIlroy said. “It would be much better being together. To me, the faster that we can all get back together and have the strongest fields possible would be great for golf.”
McIlroy made the comments at the $20 million AT&T Pro-Am, the Pebble Beach event from which Hatton was an 11th hour withdrawal. The world No 16 will instead tee it up in this week’s $25 million LIV season opener in Mexico.
McIlroy would not reveal the details of his chat, but clearly did not try to convince Hatton otherwise. “Life is about choices,” McIlroy said. “I had a long talk with Tyrrell on Sunday and completely understood where he was coming from. I’m not going to stand in anyone’s way from making money and if what they deem life changing money - like absolutely.
“Look, I’m done with trying to change people’s minds and trying to get them to see things a certain way or try to see things through my lens, because that’s ultimately not the way the world works.”
McIlroy also revealed that he talked to Rahm before his £450 million switch last month. The Northern Irishman declared at the time that Europe’s Ryder Cup eligibility rules would have to be changed to ensure that the Spaniard can play in next year’s match in New Year and plainly this conviction will only have been strengthened by Hatton’s defection.
However, Rahm did leave himself open to ridicule in the LIV unveiling on his Legion XIII team, that as well as Hatton, features Zimbabwean qualifier Kieran Vincent and Caleb Surratt, plucked straight from US college as a world top 10 amateur.
In explaining the squad’s unusual moniker, Rahm - who became a multi-millionaire playing on the PGA Tour and Dp World Tour - seemed to forget his recent departure from the Tours which made him a multi-millionaire.
“I wanted to go down the warrior spirit mythology side for the team’s name,” Rahm said. “The term ‘loyalty’ is very important for me - I think it embodies the warrior spirit through its decisiveness and ready-for-battle mindset. During the Roman Empire, there was the iconic Legion XIII Gemina in Caesar’s army. They believed in the credo of faithful loyalty.”
— Legion XIII (@LegionXIIIgc) January 30, 2024
While many might see the irony in Rahm’s statement - particularly as he actually pledged his loyalty to the PGA Tour in 2022 - this could well have been a barb at Jay Monahan, the commissioner at Sawgrass HQ.
When Monahan entered into that secret “framework agreement” with PIF last June, Rahm used words such as “betrayal” and “trust”. Insiders suggest that gave Rahm the green light to fashion his own backstage deal. And then to convince Hatton, his Ryder Cup partner, also to board the chariot.