“With the fighting people are getting fatigued and turning off men’s professional golf”

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Rory McIlroy feels the current landscape in men’s professional golf is not sustainable and that the golf’s civil war between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf is pushing fans away from watching the sport.

McIlroy told Golf Monthly that the money fight between the PGA Tour and LIV is not sustainable and he reiterated his comments in a press conference before the Valero Texas Open.

The four-time major winner cited the drop in TV ratings on the PGA Tour and the continuously poor viewership of LIV Golf as a huge stumbling block for men’s professional golf but insisted that both tours can still co-exist successfully.

“I think I know this isn’t a be-all, end-all, but if you look at the TV ratings of the PGA TOUR this year, they’re down 20 percent across the board. That’s a fifth, that’s big,” said the Holywood man.

“I would say the numbers on LIV aren’t great either in terms of the people tuning in. I just think with the fighting and everything that’s went on over the past couple years, people are just getting really fatigued of it and it’s turning people off men’s professional golf, and that’s not a good thing for anyone.

“It’s going to be really interesting to see how the four major championships do, or even the three because put Augusta aside, I think that sort of lives in its own world. It will be really interesting to see how the major championship numbers fare compared to the other bigger events because there’s an argument to be made if the numbers are better and you’ve got all the best players in the world playing, then there’s an argument to say OK, we need to get this thing back together.

“But on the flip side, if the numbers aren’t as good, it’s an argument to still say we need to put everyone back together because people are losing interest in the game even if they don’t want to tune in to the four major championships. Like that to me is not — that’s where I said like things need a correction and things are unsustainable because I’m close with NBC and the people that really care about these things and the people that tune in to watch golf. You know, 20 percent’s a pretty jarring number this year.”

The Valero Texas Open coincides with LIV Golf Miami this week and defending Masters champion Jon Rahm feels there is room in the golfing landscape for both tours.

“Every time I get asked a question like this, I say the same thing. I think there’s room for both. It’s as simple as that.

“I think we have the opportunity to end up with an even better product for the spectators and the fans of the game, a little bit more variety doesn’t really hurt anybody.

“So I think — I think properly done, we can end up with a much better product that can take golf to the next level worldwide, and I’m hoping that’s what ends up happening.”

Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson feels golf’s civil war will continue for a while longer.

“I think in the end, we are in a transitional state where we now have competition and that’s leading to a lot of disruption and change, but it’s also in the end product going to make golf more global where the best players travel more,” said the three-time Masters winner.

“I don’t know how it’s going to end out, exactly, or what it’s going to look like. I’m putting my trust in (PIF governor) Yasir (Al-Rumayyan) and where the game is headed more globally.

“But at some point when it gets ironed out, I think it’s going to be in a much better place where we bring the best players from the world, and it’s going to open up more opportunities for manufacturing, course design, for players in different parts of the world to be inspired and enter the game. I think it’s going to be in a much better place.

“But right now, we are in the disruption phase, so we are in the middle of the process, and when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be a lot brighter.

“But while we go through it, it’s challenging. But we’ll get there.”

Smash GC captain and US PGA champion, Brooks Koepka, wasn’t really pushed on whether the chasm in world golf will be repaired anytime soon.

“As far as what Rory said, I don’t know, it’s tough to tell the future,” Koepka said. “I have no control over anything. I’m just kind of, just keep going wherever they tell me to go.

“Same with the PGA TOUR guys. I just don’t think anybody knows the future. Nobody knows on this side. Nobody knows on that side.

“It’s up to people that are more important than me and more important than a bunch of the players to decide.

“We’ll let them figure it out and go from there.”

Next week will see players from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf come together for the first of what is likely to be only four times this season and Bryson DeChambeau said that the major championships serve as a reminder that the best players in the world must come together more often.

“I think that from a player’s perspective, it needs to come back together for the fans, No. 1,” DeChambeau said.

“The fans are what drive this sport. If we don’t have fans, we don’t have golf.”

He added: “And it needs to happen fast. It’s not a two-year thing. It needs to happen quicker rather than later just for the good of the sport. Too many people are losing interest.”

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