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Rory McIlroy steps up call for global tour with ‘Champions League’ of golf

Rory McIlroy steps up call for global tour with ‘Champions League’ of golf
Rory McIlroy: "It would be like the Champions League in European football" - Getty Images/Harry How

Rory McIlroy is refusing to stop beating the drum for a global series, despite the likes of Tiger Woods suggesting that the PGA Tour’s recent £2.4 billion investment from US Private equity does not make a deal with the Saudis a necessity.

And at this crucial juncture, Hideki Matsuyama’s remarkable victory on Sunday to take the £3.2million winning cheque in Los Angeles only served to highlight the international quality of the elite game.

McIlroy resigned from the PGA Tour’s policy board three months ago after becoming frustrated with “banging my head against the wall” in the talks about the merger talks with the Public Investment Fund, the £700 billion treasure trove that funds LIV Golf.

Despite being the breakaway league’s most vocal critic for so long, McIlroy has since declared that a deal with LIV – and more to the point, with PIF – is vital if the professional male game is to unite after so much turbulence.

Two months ago, Jon Rahm, the world No 3, jumped ship in a £450 million move and he was soon followed by Ryder Cup partner Tyrrell Hatton. Those jaw-dropping defections occurred despite the “framework agreement” that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour signed with PIF last summer.

The fraught negotiations have been made all the more uncertain by the Strategic Sports Group – a consortium of US sports group owners spearheaded by Liverpool FC’s Fenway Sports Group – and then by Woods declaring earlier this week that he largely agreed with Jordan Spieth’s view that a PIF investment was no longer needed financially.

McIlroy, however, believes the opposite and, at the Genesis Invitational, once again underlined his vision of how he thinks the elite game should look in the future. McIlroy is imploring the Americans to peer outside their own borders and embrace the DP World Tour’s early-season calendar.

“It’s all pie in the sky stuff, but I think there has to be a component of the southern hemisphere, Australia, South Africa… and the Far East, whether that be Korea, Japan, China,” McIlroy said.

“Obviously the Middle East as well. We’ve been going to the Middle East for a long time, but obviously Dubai, Saudi, and then sort of working our way from east to west and back into the US for the sort of spring, summertime. The way I look at it, it would be like the Champions League in European football. It would sit above the rest of the leagues and then all those leagues sort of feed up into that and the best of the best play against each other.”

McIlroy sees a maximum of 80-man fields and a 24-event schedule for the elite, including the majors. For now, however, he seems to be fighting a forlorn battle with US insularity.

McIlroy’s main priority however is to win the Masters in April and his display at the Genesis Invitational in LA over the weekend hardly inspired huge confidence after a final-round 70 put him on five-under and outside the top 20 in the 70-man event.

Matsuyama, who became the first Japanese male to win a major at Augusta in 2021, fired a nine-under 62 at Riviera to prevail by three from Luke List and Will Zalatoris. The 31-year-old started the final round six shots off Patrick Cantlay’s lead, but the American slumped to a 73 to finish fourth.

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