Rory’s LIV U-turn: “I don’t think there should be punishment, let them come back”

Ronan MacNamara
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Tyrrell Hatton and Rory McIlroy (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Rory McIlroy’s softened stance over LIV Golf has turned into a complete 180 after he declared that players who defected to the Saudi backed tour should be allowed to compete on the PGA Tour again without punishment.

When LIV began in 2022, McIlroy carried the fight for the PGA Tour but by last summer his staunch criticism of the breakaway tour had diminished as he declined to speak about it at press conferences before he stepped down from the PGA Tour advisory board in November.

The third season of the LIV Golf League gets underway in Mayakoba on Friday which will feature new $500m signing Jon Rahm and his European Ryder Cup teammate Tyrrell Hatton, who was confirmed on his new Legion XII team, with Polish star Adrian Meronk expected to be announced in the coming days.

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All three moves could damage Team Europe in the Ryder Cup going forward, while Meronk’s mooted switch is particularly sudden given he was one of the DP World Tour’s PGA Tour graduates from last season.

McIlroy though, in a 180 that even Luke Littler would be proud of, would like to see the LIV players back on the PGA Tour sooner rather than later, and without repercussions.

“I think life is about choices. Guys made choices to go and play LIV, guys made choices to stay here. If people still have eligibility on this tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try and do something, let them come back,” the Holywood man said ahead of his second AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am appearance.

“I think it’s hard to punish people. I don’t think there should be a punishment, obviously I’ve changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA TOUR and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties. It would be much better being together and moving forward together for the good of the game. That’s my opinion of it.

“So to me, the faster that we can all get back together and start to play and start to have the strongest fields possible I think is great for golf.”

Ahead of Hatton’s move to LIV Golf, McIlroy revealed the pair had discussions over the switch and like the dialogue he had with Rahm last month, the four-time major champion is done with trying to turn players heads.

“I think they’re different than a year ago because, you know, we’re potentially about to do a deal with PIF, who owned the large majority of LIV, and hopefully seeing things come back together here at some point. Yeah, I think the nature of the conversation was probably different than it would have been a year ago, absolutely.

“I said to him just like I said to Jon, like I’m totally supportive of your decision if that’s what you feel is the right thing for you. Look, these are guys that I’ve spent a lot of time with, and I guess I’ve said this before, but I’ve come to the realization I’m not here to change people’s minds, especially when I was at the board level, trying to give them the full picture of where things are at and hopefully where things are going to go. They can do with that information what they want.

“But at the end of the day I think I’m done with trying to change people’s minds and trying to get them to see things a certain way or try to see things through my lens because that’s ultimately not the way the world works. You know, these are guys that I respect and that I’ve spent a lot of time with and if that’s what they feel is the best decision for them, then I’m going to, you know, be supportive of that decision and let them go and do their own thing.”

McIlroy will most likely face criticism for essentially dropping his weapons and succumbing to LIV and it appears that stepping down from the PGA TOUR Policy Board in November was where he cut his ties with Jay Monahan and co in golf’s civil war.

“Should I have never went on the board? I think so. I think I said this when I did step off, I’m happy being busy, I just like to be busy doing the things that I think are not “worth it,” I think that’s the wrong way to phrase it, but more I just didn’t feel like I could influence things the way I wanted to and I felt like I was just banging my head against the wall and it was time for me to step off and kind of concentrate on my own stuff.”

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