Golf

McIlroy says PGA Tour merger with Saudis 'good for game,' still 'hates' LIV Golf

For the past year or so, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy took on a job besides golfer. In addition to contending on Sundays, the Northern Irishman became the de facto spokesman of the PGA Tour in its rift with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League. On Wednesday, the 34-year-old took the podium at Toronto's Oakdale Golf and Country Club, and said the merger was ultimately the best move for the PGA Tour.

Four-time major champion speaks day after shock announcement

A golfer speaks into a microphone at a press conference.
Rory McIlroy speaks to the media regarding the new business relationship with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund during the Canadian Open in Toronto on Wednesday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

For the past year or so, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy took on a job besides golfer.

In addition to contending on Sundays, the Northern Irishman became the de facto spokesman of the PGA Tour in its rift with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League.

On Tuesday, the PGA Tour, the European DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced a merger — a move that took many, including McIlroy, by surprise.

On Wednesday, the 34-year-old took the podium at Toronto's Oakdale Golf and Country Club, one day before his attempt to win a third straight Canadian Open was set to begin.

He said the merger was ultimately the best move for the PGA Tour.

"Ultimately … when I look 10 years down the line, I think this is going to be good for the game of golf," he said. "It unifies it and it secures its financial future. So there's mixed emotions in there. I don't understand all the intricacies of what's going on. There's a lot of ambiguity, there's a lot of things still to be sort of thrashed out."

WATCH | McIlroy weighs in on PGA Tour commissioner — and what comes next:

Rory McIlroy left feeling 'somewhat like a sacrificial lamb' in wake of PGA Tour merger

12 months ago
Duration 2:32
Professional golfer Rory McIlroy says he still has confidence in Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, adding that he thinks the future of the PGA 'as a whole' is looking brighter in the wake of the newly announced deal. But he says there are still questions about how things will work, and what the change means for professional golfers.

For the previous year, McIlroy railed against LIV — presenting both moral arguments in terms of Saudi Arabia's questionable human rights record and legacy reasoning about how it means more to win on the PGA Tour, even without oil-fueled financial backing.

McIlroy was clear in saying the deal has "nothing to do" with LIV, even as the Tour gets into bed with the Saudis.

"I still hate LIV. I hate them. I hope it goes away and expect that it does."

WATCH l Golf world upended as PGA Tour, European counterpart to merge with LIV Golf:

Golf feud ends as PGA Tour, LIV Golf announce surprise merger

12 months ago
Duration 2:06
The golf world is being upended again as the PGA Tour and its European counterpart, the DP World Tour, announced plans to merge with rival, LIV Golf — the Saudi-backed upstart that poached top players like Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman with the promise of massive paycheques.

The fallout from the shock announcement began Tuesday evening, when players met with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who explained the decision to suddenly merge with those funding their rival tour.

He added that one of Monahan's points of emphasis in the meeting was that players who defected to LIV — including major champions Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka — wouldn't just be allowed to walk back onto the PGA Tour.

"There still has to be consequences to actions. The people that left the PGA Tour irreparably harmed this Tour, started litigation against it. We can't just welcome them back in. Like, that's not going to happen," he said.

Meanwhile, per reports, when one lower-level player spoke out against Monahan during the meeting, McIlroy retorted that he should "play better." The player then reportedly told McIlroy to "f—- off."

WATCH | How McIlroy heard about the massive golf deal:

Rory McIlroy on how he heard about the massive golf deal

12 months ago
Duration 2:34
Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy says he knew there had been discussions about a deal between the PGA Tour and the backers of LIV Golf, but says the deal announced this week still came as a 'surprise.'

"From where we were a couple of weeks ago to where we are today, I think the future of the PGA Tour looks brighter as a whole, as an entity," McIlroy said. "What that looks like for individual players in terms of keeping a Tour card and bringing players back into the fold and then that sacrifices other people, that's where the anger comes from. And I understand that."

That player was reportedly not the only one to respond with rage to the PGA Tour's sudden U-turn. One player said Monahan was called a hypocrite.

"I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite," Monahan said Tuesday. "Any time I've said anything I've said it with the information I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that's trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players."

McIlroy said he knew the lines of communication between the PGA Tour and Saudis had been reopened over the past months, but that he only found out that an agreement had been reached early Tuesday morning.

WATCH | Adam Hadwin sad to see LIV overshadow Canadian Open:

Adam Hadwin sad to see LIV overshadow RBC Canadian Open yet again

12 months ago
Duration 1:23
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C. said he feels sad that news of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger has taken emphasis away from Canada's national men's golf tournament.

Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, like most people, found out via Twitter on Tuesday. Speaking a day later, he said he was "blindsided" by the news, but would wait for more details to cast judgment.

"Right now it obviously is going to feel different or feel not right or confusing and everyone's got a lot of questions. But I do think that with time this could end up being a great thing. I just think people are very quick to jump on it being a really bad thing, but it's too early to say one way or the other," he said.

Fellow Canadian Corey Conners also said he was taken aback by the news, but added that his faith is in the PGA Tour.

"At first I was a little caught off guard, but trying to understand the situation, which again I really haven't dove too deep into it. But I do trust the leadership of the PGA Tour and I think people just don't like being surprised by things," he said.

McIlroy said he still has confidence in Monahan as commissioner, noting his acumen as a business man. He also admitted to the hypocrisy of the merger.

"Of course. I said it to Jay yesterday, 'You've galvanized everyone against something and that thing that you galvanized everyone against you've now partnered with," he said.

"The one thing I would say is, again, whether you like it or not, the PIF and the Saudis want to spend money in the game of golf. They want to do this. And they weren't going to stop. So… how can we get that money into the game, but use it the right way?

"And I think that's what this ultimately will do, hopefully."

WATCH | Can a Canadian win the Canadian Open?:

Will a Canuck win the Canadian Open for the first time in nearly 70 years?

12 months ago
Duration 1:52
A strong Canadian contingent will be teeing it up at the Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Toronto this week.

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