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Rickie Fowler on whether LIV defectors should be punished in seeking a return to PGA Tour: ‘They made decisions, and there has to be something for it’

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy said LIV defectors shouldn’t be punished if seeking a return to the PGA Tour. Not all of his fellow competitors share his latest view.

“The good thing is the decision’s not up to me,” said Rickie Fowler when asked his opinion after the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Thursday.

But when pressed on the matter, Fowler took a firmer stance on the issue.

“I don’t think it’s a direct road,” he said. “I mean, they made decisions and there’s — there has to be something for it. Whether how small or big, that’s not up to me.”

Patrick Cantlay, one of the independent player directors on the Tour’s board, spoke only in broad terms on the topic.

“I think everyone’s divided,” he said. “It’s up to a group of us. I know players feel all over the board on that issue, and so my job as a player director is to represent the entire membership. So if something like that were to come down the road, I’m sure we would have to have a robust conversation around that topic.”

He added: “I haven’t really been putting a ton of thought into that until the moment comes because I’ve been trying to focus on what’s in front of me.”

Justin Rose, the defending champion this week, said it’s complicated, noting “there will never be a one-for-one ration where one guy feels good about everyone coming back because they got something and they didn’t.

“But I think ultimately, if this is all structured the right way, those guys coming back strengthens the Tour and everybody that’s now involved in this new structure is going to benefit from those great names coming back and being a part of the Tour. So you have to look at it objectively as well. Anything that’s going to strengthen the Tour in the long term is going to benefit the players now. From that point, you’ve got to get your head around that, I suppose. I don’t think there’s an easy reintegration anytime soon, but I don’t see that as off the table.”

McIlroy, once the most vocal proponent for the Tour, has softened his stance since saying in June that “the people that left the PGA Tour (for LIV) irreparably harmed this tour” and as a result there must be “consequences to actions.”

“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,” said McIlroy during his pre-tournament press conference. “I think it’s hard to punish people.

“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. That’s my opinion of it. So to me, the faster that we can all get back together and start to play and start to have the strongest fields possible I think is great for golf.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek