McIlroy’s cheeky “who knows” response to LIV links shows his changing tune

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Rory McIlroy was cheekily coy on his chances of making a potential switch to LIV Golf in what would be one of sport’s most dramatic u-turns.

The word cheekily must be stressed, McIlroy was in his trademark boyish form in front of the media yesterday ahead of today’s Cognizant Classic in Palm Beach.

Over the weekend, McIlroy’s former manager Chubby Chandler claimed the Northern Irishman could make a shock move to LIV Golf giving a 10% chance.

Quizzed on this yesterday, McIlroy – who is always good for a quote – did little to dismiss the notion.

“Somewhere in the middle maybe. Who knows?,” he said when asked what was his percentage chance of moving to LIV.

“I think he’s writing a book, so there is that. I spoke to Chubby, I might have seen him in the Middle East at the start of the year. Never know. He might know a few things. Who knows?”

Although it may be tongue in cheek, it’s another example of the Holywood man’s softened stance on LIV if it’s not already been a u-turn on the Saudi backed tour over the last two years

Speaking at the 2022 RBC Canadian Open, the same week as the inaugural LIV London event, McIlroy said he didn’t want to play on the breakaway tour

“I think my stance on it has been pretty clear from the start. It’s not something that I want to participate in. But I guess for me right now, I can only speak personally, it’s not something that I envision ever doing,” he said that June.

By the time the 2022 Tour Championship rolled around three months later, the Northern Irishman’s stance against LIV was even stronger.

“I hate what it’s doing to the game of golf. I hate it, I really do,” said McIlroy who at this point looked like he was getting a buzz in performances on the course for his PGA Tour spokesman duties off the course after close shaves in all four major championships before going on to win his third FedEx Cup.

One year later (June 2023) McIlroy was back at the RBC Canadian Open where he was not on board with LIV but had certainly conceded that it was here to stay for the long haul.

At this stage a bombshell framework agreement was announced between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the PIF who bankroll LIV Golf.

“I’ve come to terms with it,” he admitted. “Honestly, I have just resigned myself to the fact that this is what’s going to happen it’s very hard to keep up with people who have more money than everyone else.

“I still hate LIV, I hate it. I hope it goes away and I fully expect that it does.”

By now big names like Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau and Joaquin Niemann are a thing of the past on PGA Tour leaderboards. McIlroy had even taken a back seat to all things anti LIV, refusing to talk about it ahead of the US Open in Los Angeles.

A tumultuous year for golf was rocked by the most unwanted of Christmas presents as Jon Rahm penned a record $500m move to LIV Golf.

This was when McIlroy appeared to do a 180 over his stance on LIV.

Rahm, alongside Rory, had helped spearhead Europe to a brilliant victory over the USA in the Ryder Cup last September raising hopes of a potential first away win since the Miracle at Medinah in 2012 when Luke Donald’s charges travel to Bethpage Black next year.

Europe were without stalwarts Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson in Rome and a young fresh crop of Europeans had been unearthed.

In December 2023, McIlroy claimed that the Ryder Cup eligibility criteria should be tweaked in order to allow players like Rahm to compete for Europe next year.

“You can’t judge someone for making a decision that they feel is the best thing for them,” said McIlroy who had stepped down from the PGA TOUR board ahead of the DP World Tour Championship.

“Jon is going to be in Bethpage in 2025 so, because of this decision, the European Tour (DP World Tour) are going to have to rewrite the rules for the Ryder Cup eligibility,” McIlroy told Sky. “There’s absolutely no question about that – I certainly want Jon Rahm on the next Ryder Cup team.

Tyrrell Hatton and DP World Tour Player of the Year, Adrian Meronk were next to flock to Greg Norman’s boys.

The PGA Tour so far has seen several diluted fields and poor events and as recently as January’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am McIlroy said he would have no problem with LIV players coming back to the PGA Tour and that anyone who wishes to do so shouldn’t face punishment for leaving in the first place.

“If people still have eligibility on this tour and they want to come back and play or do something, let them come back and play. The faster we can get back together and play and have the strongest fields possible I think is great for golf.”

The four-time major winner has been beating the drum for a Champions League style world golf tour in order to get the best players back playing in the same place again. Ironically UEFA’s premier competition is set for a revamp next year after what has been an incredibly 2023/24 edition so far.

That doesn’t divert from the point that McIlroy has softened from an us against them approach to a let’s all play happy families desire.

“Somewhere in the middle maybe, who knows?” he quipped with a smile yesterday.

Who knows is right. Golf’s future is murky to say the least.

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