McIlroy defends Monahan while calling for consequences to remain in place for LIV defectors

Mark McGowan

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy has moved to defend under-fire PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan after yesterday’s startling news that the PGA and DP World Tour’s would merge with the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), whilst also suggesting that LIV Golf defectors would not be welcomed back with open arms by the PGA Tour.

“I do,” Rory replied when asked if he still has confidence in the commissioner, who had repeatedly said that he would not harbour any negotiations with the Saudi-backed enterprise. “And, look, I’ve dealt with Jay a lot closer than a lot of those guys have. 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. 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, right. And I understand that.”

Following their exits from the PGA Tour and the part they played in LIV Golf’s success as a direct competitor to the PGA Tour in addition to the legal cases that have subsequently been brought against it, McIlroy asserts that there must be repercussions against those who’ve attempted to harm the PGA Tour.


“There still has to be consequences to actions,” McIlroy explained. “The people that left the PGA TOUR irreparably harmed this TOUR, started litigation against it. Like, we can’t just welcome them back in. Like, that’s not going to happen. And I think that was the one thing that Jay was trying to get across yesterday is like, guys, we’re not just going to bring these guys back in and pretend like nothing’s happened. That is not going to happen.

“So I do have confidence in him. I think you ask the people around him that deal with him in a business sense, whether it’s the directors of the board of the PGA TOUR or the title sponsors that he deals with, I mean, he seems to be a very impressive individual when it comes to business.”

Despite McIlroy being adamant that the merger was with the PIF and not with LIV, the delicate matter of Saudi Arabia’s reputed role in the World Trade Centre attacks is a tricky cross to bear, and with Monahan previously stating that respect for victims of 9/11 was a considerable reason to decline all approaches by LIV, it now appears that the declaration was little more than moral grandstanding given the current merger flies in the face of Monahan’s previous position.

“Of course,” McIlroy replied when asked if he could see why long-time supporters of the PGA Tour may feel cheated and emotionally stirred by the apparent hypocrisy that accompanies the deal. “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. So, yeah, of course I understand it. It is hypocritical. It sounds hypocritical.

“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. It is — they want to do this. And they weren’t going to stop. So how can — you know, the thing for me and this is the one thing that I’ve always thought about, 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. I mean, that’s my hope.”

When the potential for a breakaway Tour first became public knowledge back in early 2020, the source of the funding was something that McIlroy conceded was objectionable on moral grounds, but three years later, his position has softened somewhat partly due to the proclivity of Saudi investment in global sport and has reluctantly adopted something of a laisse a faire attitude.

“I’ve come to terms with it,” McIlroy conceded. “I see what’s happened in other sports. I see what’s happened in other businesses. And, honestly, I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that this is, you know, this is what’s going to happen. Like this is — it’s very hard to keep up with people that have more money than anyone else. And, again, if they want to put that money into the game of golf, then why don’t we partner with them and make sure that it’s done in the right way. And that’s sort of where my head’s at.”

Whilst McIlroy, despite claiming to have been in the dark surrounding the negotiations, is at peace with the announcements and agreements made, not everybody on the PGA Tour feels the same and several Tour players vented their frustrations at yesterday’s players’ meeting, some going so far as to call for Monahan’s resignation.

“Yeah, look, it was heated,” the former chairman of the Players’ Advisory Committee conceded. “People were surprised. People felt like they were in the dark about all this. Look, most of the gripes come from the guys that are, you know, trying to hold onto their cards. And they feel like things have already been taken away from them this year with the designated events and smaller fields and no cuts and weighted FedExCup points for the larger events with the stronger fields. So they were already feeling somewhat vulnerable.

“Then, whenever this news is brought about, there’s only going to be one reaction to that. And I understand that. And, honestly, it’s hard for me to relate to those guys, because I’ve never been in that position. I try to empathize with it, but it’s hard for me to — it’s hard for me to relate to them fully, but I certainly empathize with their point of view.”

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