Rory McIlroy admitted he felt like a “sacrificial lamb” and still “hated” LIV Golf as he responded to the shock declaration of peace in golf’s civil war.
McIlroy and Tiger Woods had established themselves as the biggest supporters of the PGA Tour in its battle with LIV Golf, but were both kept in the dark about the stunning deal announced on Tuesday.
Fellow players reacted with surprise and a sense of betrayal at the news that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour were merging their commercial operations with the golf-related businesses of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which bankrolls LIV.
McIlroy, whose previously close friendship with Sergio Garcia broke down after the Spaniard joined LIV, said: “It’s hard for me to not sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb and feeling like I’ve put myself out there and this is what happens.
“Removing myself from the situation, I see how this is better for the game of golf, there’s no denying it.”
McIlroy, who said he was never offered any money to join LIV, was asked if those who did turn down massive offers should be compensated.
The world number three said: “The simple answer is yes. The complex answer is how does that happen?
“That’s all up in the air at the minute. For me as an individual, there’s just going to have to be conversations that are had.”
The PGA TOUR, DP World Tour and PIF announce landmark agreement to unify men’s professional golf.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 6, 2023
McIlroy attempted to distinguish between the PIF and LIV Golf, insisting the PGA Tour and DP World Tour had not merged with the latter.
“It’s not LIV. I still hate LIV. I hope it goes away and I would fully expect that it does,” he said. “That’s where the distinction here is. This is the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the PIF, very different from LIV.
“Whether you like it or not, the PIF and the Saudis want to spend money in the game of golf and they weren’t going to stop. This is the one thing that I’ve always thought about, how can we get that money into the game, but use it the right way?
“And I think that’s what this ultimately will do, hopefully. I mean, that’s my hope.”
McIlroy previously said there was a “morality” to his decision not to compete in the Saudi International when it was a DP World Tour event and was asked if he felt uncomfortable with Saudi Arabia’s growing influence in global sports.
“I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that this is what’s going to happen,” he said in a press conference ahead of his title defence in the RBC Canadian Open.
“It’s very hard to keep up with people that have more money than anyone else. And, again, if they want to put that money into the game of golf, then why don’t we partner with them and make sure that it’s done in the right way. And that’s sort of where my head’s at.”
McIlroy said he still had confidence in PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who reportedly faced calls to resign from several players in what he described as an “intense and heated” players’ meeting on Tuesday.
“I’ve dealt with Jay a lot closer than a lot of those guys have and from where we were a couple of weeks ago to where we are today, I think the future of the PGA Tour looks brighter as a whole,” McIlroy said.
“What that looks like for individual players in keeping a Tour card, bringing players back into the fold and then that (means) sacrifices for other people, that’s where the anger comes from.
“I understand that and there still has to be consequences to actions. The people that left the PGA Tour irreparably harmed this Tour, started litigation against it.
“We can’t just welcome them back in. That’s not going to happen. That’s what Jay was trying to get across yesterday.”
During the Canadian Open a year ago, Monahan was asked during a live TV interview about the concerns of the families of the 9/11 victims over alleged Saudi involvement in those attacks.
“As it relates to the families of 9/11, I have two families that are close to me that lost loved ones, so my heart goes out to them,” he said.
"Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?”
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan comments on players joining LIV Golf. pic.twitter.com/MeHAbR1qQL
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 12, 2022
“I would ask any player that has left (for LIV) or any player that would ever consider leaving, have you ever had to apologise for being a member of the PGA Tour?”
Monahan had conceded on Tuesday he would now be labelled a hypocrite and McIlroy agreed with that characterisation.
“I said it to Jay yesterday, you’ve galvanised everyone against something and that thing that you galvanised everyone against you’ve now partnered with,” McIlroy added.
“So, yeah, of course I understand it. It is hypocritical.”
Speaking on Wednesday evening, Monahan issued an apology after 9/11 Families United accused him and the PGA of becoming “paid Saudi shills”, telling the Golf Channel: “In allowing confidentiality to prevail, I did not communicate to very important constituents including the families of 9/11. I regret that. I really do.
“It’s important to reiterate that I feel like the move we made and how we move forward is in the best interest of our sport. We’ve eliminated those fractures. Any difficulties I’ve cause on that front, I have to own that as well. That comes back to communication.”