McIlroy twists but Fowler sticks

Mark McGowan
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Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Generally, beliefs are something to be admired, even misguided ones. Sitting on the fence is easy, leaning heavily in one direction whilst maintaining balance is a little tougher, but if you find yourself on one side, climbing back up and over is something that rarely happens nowadays.

Rory McIlroy found himself with feet firmly planted on the ground once LIV came around and he wasn’t shy about showing it. Gradually, as time has progressed, his position has obviously softened, but this week’s revelation that he thinks LIV defectors should be welcomed back to the PGA Tour with no repercussions was a startling U-turn – a complete 180 from the hardline stance he took up almost two years ago.

And he’s been heavily criticised for it, for not sticking to his convictions, and maintaining that heavy sanctions should apply for the very individuals who’d threatened – some directly, some indirectly – to bring the PGA Tour and professional men’s golf as we know it to its knees.

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But since when did having a change of mind become a bad thing? The reason that beliefs are generally a good thing and not universal, is that some beliefs are inherently wrong, dangerous even, and can have severe repercussions when left unchecked. Now, I’m not trying to get into the weeds on the rights and wrongs of either of the polarising positions McIlroy took on the subject, but things change, situations evolve, and refusing to alter your stance no matter what new evidence or information comes to light is downright idiotic. But we all have our reasons.

He’s not the only one that’s had his say on the matter. Rickie Fowler also voiced his opinion on whether LIV players should be allowed back on the PGA Tour circuit, but Fowler took up a very different position. Despite attempting to sidestep the question, the reporter in question was persistent and eventually drew an interesting response.

“Probably not in the same spot as Rory,” he admitted. “Maybe we started in a similar area, but I think there’s been a little rollercoaster ride on his part. I feel like I’ve kind of maintained middle ground as far as learning about LIV when it was first coming about, and my belief in the Tour and that was always may dream to play the Tour. Always thought it was the best place to play and wanted to see it continue to be that.

“We’re in a different spot a few years down the road and I feel like when I talked about Cantlay, Jordan, Tiger, those guys, they put a lot of time and effort to put us in a better spot and make sure that the Tour continues to be the best place to play.

“Yeah, as far as decisions to go elsewhere and just welcome back, I don’t think it’s a direct road. I mean, they made decisions and there has to be something for it. Whether how small or big, that’s not up to me.”

Fowler, of course, is in a different position to McIlroy, both on this topic and within the game. McIlroy has virtually ever-present inside the top 10 in the world rankings ever since first ascending in 2010, Fowler has dipped as low as 185, before rediscovering his form last year.

Even with the entire 52-man LIV roster deemed eligible to compete weekly on the PGA Tour, McIlroy would still be one of the best players in the world, would still contend regularly, win plenty and continue to hoover up bonus money through the FedEx Cup bonus pool and the Player Impact Rankings, even if he may contend less, win fewer tournaments, and finish lower in the FedEx Rankings.

Fowler’s position is not be quite as secure. There are at least a dozen, maybe as many as 20 LIV golfers who you’d expect to beat Rickie more often than he’d beat them, and in effect, they’d be taking money out of his pocket, taking ranking points off him, taking Ryder and Presidents Cup places and generally threatening his place in the eco-system in which he exists.

Maybe that’s not in his thinking when he suggests sanctions, but maybe it is and self-preservation is a natural human instinct.

It’s already cost McIlroy face to change his position, and it may cost him money, but he made the decision regardless.

And that’s not something he should be criticised for.

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