Rory McIlroy U-turns and admits he would play LIV Golf

Rory McIlroy U-turns and admits he would play LIV Golf
Rory McIlroy understands Jon Rahm's position on reflection - Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Rory McIlroy’s great LIV U-turn has gathered fresh pace with the world No 2 revealing he would consider joining the Saudi funded circuit “if it was turned into the IPL of golf”.

McIlroy was for so long the breakaway’s most vocal critic, as he railed against the “guaranteed money” and what he viewed as the series’ lack of competitiveness. But last month he radically altered his tune, calling for the Ryder Cup rules to be changed to ensure Jon Rahm can play in next year’s match in New York, after the Spaniard jumped ship in a £450 million deal.

Yet he has always before been adamant that he, himself, would not be putting his name to any contract, saying in July: “If LIV was the last place to play on earth I’d retire.”

That unequivocal declaration came soon after the stunning news that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour had signed a “framework agreement” with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund with the view to form a merger.

Those negotiations are ongoing and McIlroy’s positive comments about the possibility of a tramp competition on the “Stick to Football” podcast could well assist in the deal-making.

“What I would love for LIV is for it to turn into like the IPL [Indian Premier League] of golf,” McIlroy told Gary Neville, after the former England international asked if he would play on LIV under its new guise.

“So IPL and cricket has been a good thing. So they take two months during the calendar and we’d be like, ‘okay, you got your four weeks in May and your four weeks in November, and you go and you do this team stuff’. And it’s a bit different with a different format. If they were to do something like that, I’d be like, ‘yeah, that sounds like fun’. Because you’re least working within the ecosystem.

“You know, the Saudis basically exposed some of the flaws in the structures of professional golf. With $2 billion, they’ve been able to completely disrupt our game and expose some of those flaws and then hopefully we can sit together and think about what happens next.”

While McIlroy has been seen as the PGA Tour mouthpiece, he claims in this frank interview to have been key in bringing the warring parties to the table in the first place. Jay Monahan, the Tour commissioner, had previously vowed never to talk to LIV.

“So I met Yasser [Al-Rumayyan, the LIV chairman, who is also the PIF governor] at the end of last year in 2022 in Dubai and asked him ‘what do you want? What is it in golf you want to do?’,” McIlroy said.

“We had a really good chat. He loves the game and believes the team element can take off and that they can build franchise value in these teams. And I understood some of that. So when I got back to America at the start of 2023, I was on the board of the PGA Tour and I said ‘hey, someone’s got to go and talk to this guy’.

“So a plan was put in place to develop a relationship with them [LIV] and see if we can try to figure something out and all move forward together.”

‘I wouldn’t say I’ve lost the fight against LIV’

McIlroy quit the policy board in November, explaining that the role was too demanding of his time. A month later, Rahm’s defection seemingly re-started the hostilities, although not in the case of McIlroy.

“I think at this point, I was maybe a little judgmental of the guys who went to LIV golf at the start, and I think it was a bit of a mistake on my part because I now realise that not everyone is in my position or in Tiger Wood’s position,” he said.

“We all turn professionals to make a living playing the sports that we do, and I think that’s what I realised over the last two years.

‘I’ve gone through the last two years with this altruistic approach where I’ve looked at the world the way I’ve wanted to see it. Ultimately, you can say what you want, but at the end of the day, you’re not going to be able to change people’s minds. You’re never going to make them decide based on what you say.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve lost the fight against LIV, but I’ve just accepted the fact that this is part of our sport now.”

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