‘It’s the right thing to do’: Ahead of trying to end major victory drought, Rory McIlroy explains his role in leading resistance against LIV Golf

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BROOKLINE, Mass. – To no one’s surprise, the first question Rory McIlroy fielded in his gathering with the media Tuesday at The Country Club ahead of the 122nd U.S. Open dealt with the Saudi Arabia-backed, Greg Norman-led LIV Golf.

This despite McIlroy’s scintillating victory last Sunday in the RBC Canadian Open, where he outdueled Justin Thomas and Tony Finau over the last 36 holes for his 21st PGA Tour title. That number was significant to McIlroy, for it is one better than the 20 Tour titles Norman won, which the world No. 3 gleefully pointed out on more than one occasion.

It was his latest salvo at the rival league that held its first tournament last week and has lured top stars away from the PGA Tour including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau with its enormous signing bonuses, huge purses, 54-hole individual and team formats with no cut and a shotgun start.

McIlroy, along with Thomas, has been the face of the PGA Tour’s resistance to LIV Golf, frequently speaking out against it and voicing disappointment in those players who joined (PGA Tour members who joined or will join have been or will be indefinitely suspended from the PGA Tour) despite the alleged human rights violations by the Saudi Arabia regime and charges the country is using its billions of dollars in a sportswashing attempt to overshadow those same atrocities.

“It’s the right thing to do,” McIlroy said when asked why he has been so outspoken. “The PGA Tour was created by people and Tour players that came before us, the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. They created something and worked hard for something, and I hate to see all the players that came before us and all the hard work that they’ve put in just come out to be nothing.”

He also noted the “massive legacy” of charitable dollars the Tour has doled out.

“They all have the choice to play where they want to play, and they’ve made their decision,” McIlroy said. “My dad said to me a long time ago, once you make your bed, you lie in it, and they’ve made their bed.

“That’s their decision, and they have to live with that.”

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the second tee during a practice round prior to the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club on June 13, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Back in February, McIlroy said LIV Golf was dead in the water after more than a dozen of the game’s top stars pledged their allegiance to the Tour’s flag. Some of those players, however, backtracked and headed to the new league.

“I guess I took a lot of players’ statements at face value. I guess that’s what I got wrong,” McIlroy said. “You had people committed to the PGA Tour, and that’s what the statements that were put out. People went back on that, so I guess I took them for face value. I took them at their word, and I was wrong.”

Despite the defections, he said he didn’t think relationships would be strained.

“I’m still going to be close with the guys that have made the decision to play those events. It’s not as if you agree on absolutely everything that all your friends do. You’re going to have a difference of opinion on a lot of things. That’s fine. That’s what makes this a great world. We can’t all agree on everything,” McIlroy said. “I just think for a lot of the guys that are going to play that are younger, sort of similar age to me or a little younger than me, it seems like quite short-term thinking, and they’re not really looking at the big picture.

“Again, I’ve just tried to sort of see this with a wider lens from the start.”

As for his golf, McIlroy likes what he has seen of The Country Club and added he has a little more pep in his step after his win north of the border as he tries to end a major drought of eight years. Adding to his confidence is knowing he is the last player to win a PGA Tour event the week before winning a major championship, pulling off the double with victories in the 2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship.

“It gives you a lot of confidence,” he said. “I think it was the fashion in which I won last week was what gave me the most pride. Got a lead early in the back nine. Lost that lead. Was tied with two holes to go, and then I showed some really good resilience and birdied the last two holes to get the job done.

“My last two showings in major championships have been pretty good (second in the Masters, eighth in the PGA Championship). So I’m getting back to a place where I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with my game and a lot more comfortable at the biggest, not really the biggest championships in the world, but it’s more the biggest and toughest tests in the world. I think my game is now at a place where I feel confident going to these golf courses that are set up more difficult than everyday Tour events and knowing that I have the game and the mentality to succeed on them.”

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