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Rory McIlroy says he won't rejoin PGA Tour board, points to 'subset' that didn't want him back

May 08, 2024

Andrew Redington

If you think of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf drama as a giant tree, it has grown several branches, and each of those branches spouts its own tinier branches, and all of those tinier branches are completely jampacked with drama. So it goes with Rory McIlroy and the "will he/won't he?" suspense surrounding his potential return to the PGA Tour Policy Board … you know, the very board he quit last November because he was sick of being the tour's spokesperson and was also running into massive opposition on the subject of actually getting a merger done. (Though staunchly anti-LIV, McIlroy has evolved to where he wants a deal completed with the PIF ASAP, while many of the board quite clearly don't share this view.) A few weeks ago, it became clear that he wanted back in, and Webb Simpson—who had come under criticism for sponsor's exemptions while serving on the board—was going to clear the way for him.

Now? It appears McIlroy is not going to return after all. Speaking Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship, the 25-time PGA Tour winner made it clear that internal opposition to him rejoining the board had successfully scuttled the operation, and that at least for the time being, he'll remain on the outside looking in.

"There's been a lot of conversations. Sort of reminded me partly why I didn't [stay on the board in the first place]," he said, referencing his departure. "I think it just, it got pretty complicated and pretty messy and I think with the way it happened, I think it opened up some old wounds and scar tissue from things that have happened before … there was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason. … I think the best course of action is if, you know, there's some people on there that aren't comfortable with me coming back on, then I think Webb just stays on and sees out his term, and I think he's gotten to a place where he's comfortable with doing that and I just sort of keep doing what I'm doing.”

Later on Wednesday, Simpson confirmed his intention to remain on the board.

"I intend to carry out my full term of three years, and I think all of us are in agreement that we want to work well together, we want to make the PGA Tour better and we're in a crucial time," he said. "We were in a crucial time before SSG [Strategic Sports Group] became an investor and we're now at another crucial time trying to figure out what will make the PGA Tour better not for this year or next year but for 50 years.”

As to that anti-McIlroy faction, it's easy to speculate that it's led by Patrick Cantlay, and recent reports have indicated that Cantlay is against the deal, with Golfweek reporting that at least one PGA Tour tournament director thinks McIlroy is the only one who can keep Cantlay from gumming up the merger works permanently. McIlroy has been on record calling his relationship with Cantlay "average at best."

"I put my hand up to help and it was … I wouldn't say it was rejected, it was a complicated process to get through to put me back on there. So that's all fine, no hard feelings and we'll all move on," McIlroy said Wednesday.

The fact that Simpson is serving out his term also avoids a potential controversy that would have come with him hand-picking his replacement—a not-so-democratic method of potentially loading the policy board. It was also clear on Wednesday, though, that McIlroy considers Simpson an ally on the merger issue.

"I think Webb staying on is a really good thing," McIlroy said. "I think he's got a really balanced voice in all of this and I think he sees the bigger picture, which is great. My fear was if Webb stepped off and it wasn't me that was going in his place, what could potentially happen."