Rory McIlroy returns to PGA Tour Policy Board in bid to end LIV Golf turmoil

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts after making a double bogey on the 18th hole during the final round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on April 21, 2024 in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Rory McIlroy has returned to the top table on the PGA Policy Board - Getty Images/Andrew Redington

Rory McIlroy has made the surprise decision to rejoin the PGA Tour policy board in the effort to help steer through a deal with the Saudi Public Investment Fund after resigning his position as a player director six months ago.

McIlroy quit the role in November, citing “professional and personal commitments”, although the world No 2 later admitted to “feeling like I was just banging my head against the wall” as the Tour’s negotiations with PIF all but broke down.

And despite Tiger Woods and the other player directors staging a “positive” meeting with Yasir Al Rumayyan – the PIF governor and chairman of LIV Golf – in the Bahamas last month, the talks seemingly remain in stalemate with no merger imminent.

McIlroy’s U-turn – which is almost certain to be ratified in the next few days – could be highly notable. Since he left the board, the Tour has signed up US private investors Strategic Sports Group which has already injected $1.5 billion into the circuit. LIV reacted to this by luring Jon Rahm with a £450 million and there are fears that if the Saudis are not brought into the fold that they could entice even more big names across.

SSG recognises the risk in the continuation of the Civil War and it is understood the consortium led by Liverpool FC owners Fenway Sports is not only fully behind McIlroy’s return but helped engineer it. Webb Simpson, the former US Open champion, is another who believes that a deal is vital to unify the game and has resigned from the board and requested that his place be taken by McIlroy.

The 12 members of the board need to vote unanimously for McIlroy and despite there being factions who, for whatever reasons, think that a PIF deal could and perhaps should be avoided, it verges on the inconceivable that his comeback will not be rubber-stamped.

When asked by Sky Sports why the change of mind, McIlroy’s reply was pointed. “I’d rather the men’s golf professional landscape survived this, so I’m happy to do my bit,” he said. Patrick Cantlay’s reaction to the news could be extremely interesting, regardless of his and his management’s claims that the American Ryder Cup player has no personal agenda and is simply representing the views of the PGA Tour members.

McIlroy has previously said about Cantlay “we see the world quite “differently” and had an exchange of views with Jordan Spieth, another player director, in February after the American declared, in the wake of the SSG announcement, “I don’t think that [a deal with the PIF] is needed”. “We had a pretty frank discussion,” McIlroy revealed before stating he “would not be too happy” with Spieth if he was PIF.

McIlroy’s mission will be to abandon this mindset. Initially, he was perhaps the most vocal opponent of LIV, but since the “‘framework agreement” was agreed with PIF last summer, he has been adamant that the Saudis must be included in the new Tour make-up.

He also vouched for Al-Rumayyan last month, declaring that the breakaway league has not assisted in the reputation of the right-hand man to Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. “Fundamentally he wants to do the right thing,” McIlroy said. “I have spent time with Yasir and the people that have represented him in LIV I think have done him a disservice .So [LIV commissioner chief executive] Norman and those guys.

“I see the two entities, and I actually think there’s a really big disconnect between PIF and LIV. I think you got PIF over here and LIV are sort of over here doing their own thing. So the closer that we can get to Yasir, PIF and hopefully finalise that investment, I think that will be a really good thing.”

McIlroy is speaking to the media in New Orleans on Wednesday where he is playing in the Zurich Classic - the PGA Tour pairs tournament - alongside compatriot Shane Lowry.

On the LPGA Tour, Nelly Korda has withdrawn from this week’s this week’s JM Eagle LA Championship, saying she “feels exhausted” after winning the first female major of the season, the Chevron Championship, on Sunday. The 25-year-old had won five events in a row and in her next tournament - which is now likely to be the Cognizant  Founders Cup in New Jersey in a fortnight - will be trying to break the LPGA Tour’s record for most successive victories.

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