BROOKLINE, Mass. – For six months, Rory McIlroy, the 13th and four-time grand champion of the PGA Tour, has been the most outspoken critic of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Circle, which has shaken the professional ranks.
On Tuesday, just days after LIV Golf held its first tournament outside of London, McIlroy’s rival league stigma intensified, and he found an ally with John Rahm, the defending champion at this week’s US Open at the Country Club on the outskirts of Boston. Referring to last week’s PGA Tour victory at the Canadian Open and comparing it to the LIV Golf event, McIlroy said: “Last week LIV in Canada will never have it. Last week had something to say. What they did there didn’t mean anything. “
McIlroy has long emphasized that the LIV Golf series, whose main shareholder is the State Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and which pays golfers high visibility fees that guarantee everyone a significant fee in the field, is more of an exhibition than a competition. In the middle of almost every PGA Tour event, for example, half of the golfers on the field – those with the highest scores – are eliminated from the tournament and sent off without any cash prizes.
That prompted Rahm to describe LIV Golf’s first event on Tuesday as “not a golf tournament” because there are no cuts.
He added: “I want to play against the best in the world in a format that has lasted for a hundred years. This is what I want to see. Yes, money is great, but I have never played golf for financial reasons. I play for the love of the game and I want to play against the best in the world. “
McIlroy was ruthless when talking about the same subject, especially several young players like 28-year-old Bryson DeChambeau, who chose LIV Golf on the PGA Tour. Most of the big names loyal to LIV are quite old and have been attracted by initial contracts worth $ 150 million or more. Phil Mickelson, 51, reportedly received about $ 200 million to sign.
McIlroy, 33, of Northern Ireland, said: “I understand because most of these kids are in their late 40s or, in Phil’s case, in their early 50s.” “Yes, I think everyone in this room says to themselves that the best days are over.
“That’s why I don’t understand why boys my age go there, because I would like to believe that my best days are still ahead. And I think so. So it feels like you’ve chosen the easy way out. ”
When asked why he was so passionate about his loyalty to the PGA Tour, McIlroy replied, “I think it’s the right thing to do.”
He went on to talk about the hundreds of millions of dollars that PGA Tour events have raised for countless charities, adding: “It’s a great legacy and I don’t think people talk enough.”
It is also true that McIlroy’s assessment of the LIV Golf series was wrong in the past. In February, he called the plant “dead in the water.” When asked about this misjudgment on Tuesday, even McIlroy’s response was like a punch in the nose to those who turned their backs on the PGA Tour.
“I think I took the statements of many players at face value,” he said. “I think that’s what I did wrong,” he said. You had people loyal to the PGA Tour – these are the statements that have been made. People returning to it. I accepted their word and I was wrong. “
Finally, McIlroy was asked if he had lost respect for Mickelson, the most famous player. His answer explained how it started.
“Like a golfer? No, “said McIlroy.
He continued: “As a golfer, I have great respect for Phil. I was disappointed with how he went about what he was doing. ”
About 90 minutes after McIlroy spoke to reporters, Brooks Koepka, who enjoyed his role instead, gave a different opinion about the PGA Tour-LIV Golf Roof.
“I’m trying to focus on the US Open, my friend,” Koepka said sadly. “I do not understand it legally. I’m tired of conversations. I’m tired of all this. “
Koepka complained to the media that “this black cloud has fallen on the US Open.”
“The more legs you give,” Koepka said, “the more you talk about it.”