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Rory McIlroy to LIV Golf? His response to former manager’s comments is peculiar to say the least

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Rory McIlroy did not shoot down his former manager hinting that the No. 2 golfer in the world could join LIV Golf.

And the Jupiter resident certainly had that opportunity during his news conference Wednesday before Thursday’s start of the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches.

Even though that door was not completely shut, do not count on McIlroy soon popping Champagne corks on the 18th green with Greg Norman.

When asked about Andrew “Chubby” Chandler’s comments that his softening stance on the Saudi-backed league could be a sign he’s ready to join forces with LIV, McIlroy said: “Never know. He might know a few things. Who knows?”

He did have a smile on his face.

When told Chandler put those chances from good to 10%, McIlroy added to the intrigue.

“Somewhere in the middle maybe,” he said. “Who knows?”

Certainly, McIlroy was kidding. Or was he? He certainly made it difficult to gauge how serious he was. And by the smile on his face, that’s exactly what he intended.

But he didn’t completely dismiss LIV, and he’s aware his words matter and how they will be interpreted. What makes this more intriguing is it’s not as if he hasn’t spoken to the man who was his manager for the first four years of his professional career. McIlroy spoke to Chandler recently. He believes it was in the Middle East at the start of this year.

“I think he’s writing a book, so there is that,” McIlroy said.

2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Rory Mcllroy hits his tee shot on the 11th hole during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Spyglass Hill. (Photo: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

Still, McIlroy, who is from Northern Ireland, knows he made a lot of headlines with his comments.

So, the question remains. Is there a chance Rory makes the move that would rock the golf world?

Or he is saying the percentage is something like, oh, 11%?

Even that could be high.

What is clear is McIlroy’s opinion of Talor Gooch, the LIV golfer who continues to complain about being excluded from the Masters field.

McIlroy gave Gooch the benefit of the doubt for his comment that an asterisk should be attached to McIlroy’s career Grand Slam if he wins the Masters this year. But he was clear, if Gooch is unhappy he has not qualified — which he clearly is — he should have played more golf.

McIlroy compared how Jupiter’s Joaquin Niemann dealt with the frustration of not being in the Masters field. Niemann did something about it and traveled the world trying to get an invitation, which he received this week.

Gooch continued to whine.

“Joaquin Niemann got an invite and I played with him a few weeks ago in Dubai, and he went down to Australia and won,” McIlroy said. “He was in Oman last week.

“He has been chasing his tail around the world to get this, play his way into Augusta or show enough form to warrant an invite. I don’t know if the same can be said for Talor.”

McIlroy played with Niemann in Dubai, where Niemann was fourth. That was after Niemann won the Australian Open and was fifth at the Australian PGA Championship. Augusta National justified Niemann’s invite by citing his Australian Open victory and top-10s in European Tour-sanctioned events.

Meanwhile, Gooch last played a non-LIV tournament in November, finishing 42nd at the Hong Kong Open. Gooch won three times on the LIV Tour last year.

Niemann makes 13 LIV golfers in the Masters field this year.

Still, McIlroy believes Gooch was steered into those comments.

“I think to be fair to Talor, if you read the question and then the answer, it’s not as if he just came out with that,” McIlroy said. “I feel like whoever did the interview led him down that path to say that.

“So, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt there a little bit. He just agreed with what the interviewer asked.”

Here are Gooch’s comments that appeared in the Australian Golf Digest.

“I think the majors have kind of shown that they’re not getting on board with LIV. (Niemann) went outside of LIV and played some great golf and they rewarded him for that. So hopefully the day will turn when the majors decide to start rewarding good play on LIV. Hopefully, that’ll be sooner than later.

“If Rory McIlroy goes and completes his (career) Grand Slam without some of the best players in the world, there’s just going to be an asterisk. It’s just the reality. I think everybody wins whenever the majors figure out a way to get the best players in the world there.”

This is the same man who compared the atmosphere of an LIV event to that of a Ryder Cup.

Eventually, he realized how ridiculous that sounded.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek