Rory McIlroy hasn’t held back with his views of the LIV Tour – but can he see a future where it works in conjunction with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour?
Rory McIlroy has been pretty outspoken in his views on golf’s most divisive topic, the Saudi-backed LIV Tour, which finally got underway with its inaugural event at Centurion Club.
McIlroy, who has been a member of the PGA Tour since 2009, has previously said: “Any decision you make in your life purely for money doesn’t usually end up going the right way. Obviously money is a deciding factor in a lot of things in this world, but if it’s purely for money, it never seems to go the way you want it to.”
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He also believes the LIV Tour, despite its astronomical prize pots, doesn’t compare to the PGA Tour in terms of player pedigree.
“I certainly don’t think the field is anything to jump up and down about,” McIlroy told The Guardian in regards to the LIV Tour’s first event, comparing it to the Memorial Tournament and Canadian Open fields. “Look at the field this week. Look at the field next week in Canada. They are proper golf tournaments.”
Having since won the Canadian Open to secure his 21st PGA Tour career victory, McIlroy was quick to point out his total was now “One more than [LIV Tour CEO Greg] Norman”.
We sat down with McIlroy to discuss his role on the PGA Tour, his first visit to St Andrews since 2010, the Ryder Cup, and why he’ll never play football again…
This will be the first time you’ve played an Open at St Andrews in 12 years. Do you ever wonder what might have been had you not suffered that freak injury before the Championship in 2015, when you’d have been doing in as defending champion?
Well, I was playing so well going into St. Andrews and then obviously I got the injury, so it was tough because I felt like the momentum I had in the Majors was sort of halted right then. And then my Majors since then have been sort of stop and start. I’ve had some chances at the Masters, The Open, the US Open so it is a little bittersweet going back in a way but I’m happy to be going back. I’d love if they played The Open at St Andrews every year. Get rid of the broken and just do that. I’m excited to go back there because I play that course well. I have good memories there, good feelings, and so I’ve just got to wrap myself up in cotton wool for the month of June so that I can get there in July.
Does it feel like there’s an unfinished business for you there?
Yeah, twice it’s been delayed for me. I had that bad round in 2010 on the second day after opening with 63 and then not being able to play in 2015 and then having to wait two extra years to play because of Covid. In a way there’s sort of unfinished business there, but you can’t go into an event thinking that way. You’ve just got to go and play, but I’ve certainly missed St Andrews because it’s been a while. I’ve played the Dunhill Links and played St. Andrews a lot since 2015.
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Have you played football since rupturing your ankle ligaments?
No, not at all. Totally not worth it for me (laughs).
Have you always enjoyed playing the Old Course – because it can polarize opinion?
It’s such a cool place. Just think of the history and the people that have played there, the people that have won the Claret Jug there. I learned to love the Old Course, I learned to appreciate it. I think you have such high expectations going there and then my expectations at the start didn’t live up to that, but once you start going back you start to appreciate everything that it is.
St Andrews seems to fit your game well…
Yeah it does, it’s a simple strategy: Avoid the bunkers, keep it left, and make sure your lag putting is in good shape. Then you’ve got a good chance.
Jack Nicklaus told us you’ve shared a few lunches together recently. What kind of advice has he been giving you?
I see Jack all the time at home, I see him at the Bear’s Club. I’ve had lunch with him twice, maybe three times, but it’s one of those things where I’m sitting there and he joins me or I join him. I just love how simple he makes the game seem. He was a master of just simplifying everything he did, not overcomplicating it. At the heart of it, this game is simple if you break it down. And he really has a great way of articulating that. He’s so sharp. He remembers all of those times when he’s been in contention and those big moments and it’s cool just to hear stories about the older guys like [Tom] Watson or [Lee] Trevino or Arnold [Palmer] or Gary [Player] or whoever it is. It’s always just a pleasure to spend some time with Jack.
Have you had a chance to play the Marco Simone course ahead of next year’s Ryder Cup?
I don’t know much about it at all and I need to find out. Hopefully there’s an opportunity in the next 12 to 18 months to get over to Rome and play it, whether that’s in the Italian Open or not. I think one of the big things coming out of last year at Whistling Straits was that the American guys just seemed to know the course a little bit better and they seemed more comfortable on it. I’m not saying that’s the reason that they won, I just think they played better than us across the board. Home Ryder Cups seem to be more of an advantage than they ever have been so I think it’s important for the Europeans to use all that advantage as best we can.
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What kind of changes are you campaigning for in your role as chairman of the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council?
There’s a few things, obviously the game of golf is heading in different directions. We’ve got a concept out there that has premium players, limited fields and opportunities only for a few people. Then you have what the PGA Tour and DP World Tour have which is a wonderful product, opportunities for more than just 48 players, and I think it’s trying to find a balance of the two. I think there’s some way that all of this can work together and that’s the big challenge right now, to give the fans what they want in terms of some of these concepts and formats but also make sure we’re giving every professional golfer a chance to make a living and to try and play in as many tournaments as possible.
What do you feel is your role with Team Europe at the moment?
I feel like I’ve taken on a leadership role within the European team the last few Ryder Cups probably from 2014 onward. But it’s a role that I enjoy and there’s a few leaders on our team now as we’ve got Jon Rahm and myself. Even Viktor Hovland – he’s only played in one Ryder Cup but next time he’ll be someone that some of the other rookies might look up to. It’s important to have a cohesive team and have everyone on the same wavelength. I think some of the leaders of the team and the captain set the tone for the week and that’s sort of always in the back of my mind that I try and always lead by example.
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