One-Man Oral History
Rory McIlroy's evolving stance on LIV Golf and the PIF: A comprehensive timeline
This week, we attempted to compile every public quote Rory McIlroy has made about LIV Golf, its predecessor the Premier Golf League, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and all the related drama in the golf world over the last four years. We scoured press conference transcripts, interviews with various media sources in the United States and abroad, and dozens of TV and podcast appearances. In all, it yielded a grand total of 26,506 words—about a third of the way to a novel—and it's inevitable that we missed something along the way.
You'll be relieved to know that this post isn't 26,000 words long, but it's not short either—picking out the important quotes is difficult because they all seem important. In tracing McIlroy's public comments since pre-pandemic 2020, when the PGL seemed to be on the verge of … well, something, maybe … to last week in Pebble Beach, when Rory took issue with Jordan Spieth's contention that the PGA Tour might not need a PIF investment in the wake of its deal with the Strategic Sports Group, what emerges is a story of shifting opinions, but also a surprising consistency over time. In fact, it’s tempting to argue that even the changing opinions reflect a consistent goal—reuniting the game—and the only reason the opinions change is because McIlroy’s view on the best way to accomplish that goal also changes. (Of course, you can also read it on a more cynical level, and say that any of the changes are also motivated by whatever personal benefits accrue to him.)
McIlroy’s shift reflects the broader changes in the sport itself, and the intention here isn't to call the four-time major champion a hypocrite. As the most public-facing figure of any player, McIlroy had the most to lose by going on the record over and over. Instead, this is a kind of one-man oral history from someone who rarely shied from the hard questions. To the extent that his changes of heart reflect something about his character, good or bad, that's for the reader to decide. As a document of a turbulent four years, though, it's plenty fascinating without judgment.
We'll start in 2020 and divide the saga into four parts. Many quotes have been shortened with ellipses for clarity and length.
PART 1: The PGL Era
From 2020, when McIlroy first spoke publicly on the subject, to early 2022, the breakaway narrative was defined by the Premier Golf League. The brainchild of British businessman Andy Gardiner, the PGL was a blueprint for team golf, and today’s LIV format retains many of the main elements. After years of building connections and gathering funding, including from the PIF, Gardiner and his team were attempting to make inroads in early 2020, including asking PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan for a meeting to discuss the potential for the two to work together to boost professional golf. Whether they were on the verge of success or not is still a subject of debate, but once the pandemic hit, what momentum the PGL had built was halted, and the remaining months of this era were a slow fade into irrelevance before the Saudis revived the idea without Gardiner. McIlroy, who according to Gardiner had loosely supported the concept in its infancy, didn’t take long to rally against the idea when it became a tangible possibility.
On the PGL: "Those guys have been talking to a few of us for six years. They approached me at the end of 2014. … I love the PGA Tour. … I certainly wouldn't want to lose what's been built in the last 40 or 50 years. … I'm still quite a traditionalist, so to have that much of an upheaval in the game I don't think is the right step forward. But I think, as I said, it might be a catalyst for some changes on this tour that can help it grow and move forward and, you know, reward the top players the way they should be."
On potential conflict between players who leave the PGA Tour to play the PGL: "I could see that, definitely. … People are looking at it purely from a monetary standpoint. … I would like to be on the right side of history with this one, just sort of as Arnold [Palmer] was with the whole Greg Norman thing in the '90s. Again, I value a lot of other things over money, and that's sort of my stance on it at this point."
On the PGL proposals: "The more I've thought about it, the more I don't like it. The one thing as a professional golfer in my position that I value is the fact that I have autonomy and freedom over everything that I do. … I read a thing the other day where it said if you take the money they can tell you what to do, so if you don't take the money, they can't tell you what to do. … I feel like I would give that up by going to play this other league. For me, I'm out. My position is I'm against it until there may come a day that I can't be against it. If everyone else goes, I might not have a choice."
Rory McIlroy at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational, when concept of the Premier Golf League was being floated among players.
On structural changes the PGA Tour could make: "I don't want to come across as all sort of elitist, but I think there [are] some smaller fields, maybe a few more events with no cuts. … I think being a golf fan these days can get quite exhausting following so many different tournaments, different tours, all that stuff. So maybe … sort of streamline it a bit might be … a good place to start a conversation."
On possible Saudi funding for the PGL: "I didn’t really like where the money was coming from either. I wanted to be the first one to speak out against it. I’m glad that I have. I’m glad that I’ve done that.”
At this point, the pandemic hit and the PGLs momentum stalled. Eventually, officials with the PIF would decide not to partner with the PGL, co-opting the idea of a breakaway circuit. Moving forward, McIlroy's quotes on the matter are few and far between until 2022, when renewed Saudi efforts to start what would become LIV Golf began to have a real impact.
On a potential future merger between the DP World Tour (formerly European Tour) and PGA Tour: "I've sort of been calling for it for a while. Yeah, I would like to see that. I think for the health of both tours, a world tour is something I've always wanted, but it had to be done the right way. I think the PGL coming in and trying to do it their way wasn't the right thing, so trying to make change from within the game already and not letting an outsider come in is the right way to do it."
On the newly announced alliance [signed in December 2020] between the European and PGA Tours: "It obviously leads to more cohesion of the professional game as a whole. I think at the minute, the professional game is a little fractured. … It just makes everything a little more cohesive and by the governing bodies and the tours working better together, I think it will just make it a more streamlined product for the players, for the media, for the consumer, basically for everyone."
On whether his view on the PGL had changed: "No, it hasn't changed at all. I haven't heard much about them over the past year. If they've been making the rounds, they certainly haven't been approaching us or my team. … I just can't see where they can go from here."
On the progression of the PGL: “People can see it for what it is, which is a money grab. Which is fine if that's what you're playing golf for is to make as much money as possible. Totally fine, then go and do that if that's what makes you happy. But I think the top players in the game, I'm just speaking my own personal beliefs, like I'm playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy."
PART 2: Saudi re-emergence and the first year of LIV Golf
When Yasir Al-Rumayyan and the Saudis lost faith in Andy Gardiner as the leader of the enterprise, they did not simply give up the dream of breaking into the world of professional golf. Instead, they began quietly building the infrastructure for what would become LIV Golf. The first LIV event was held in June 2022 in London, but momentum began to gather as early as February, which is also when McIlroy once again began to speak publicly about the new conflict.
On why breakaway news seemed to be resurgent: "I have no idea. Again, I knew the way these guys have operated and it's all been smoke and mirrors, They've created rumors and spread rumors and tried to play one guy off another and said one thing to one manager and said a different thing to another manager and just sort of created this chaos and confusion around that group, and everyone's questioning everyone else's motives so they're just kind of playing everyone off one another."
On who might defect to LIV Golf first after Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau at the 2022 Genesis Invitational both said they were sticking with the PGA Tour: "Certainly for the younger guys, it just seems a massive risk. … I can maybe make sense of it for the guys that are getting to the latter stages of their career, for sure. … That's not what [the LIV organizers are] going to want, is it? They don't want some sort of league that's like a pre-Champions Tour. ... you look at the people that have already said no, [Jon] Rahm, No. 1 in the world, Collin Morikawa, myself. Like you've got the top players in the world are saying no, so that has to tell you something.
On whether Phil Mickelson's infamous remarks to Alan Shipnuck would end any chances of LIV's success: "Who's left? Who's left to go? I mean, there's no one. It's dead in the water in my opinion. … I just can't see any reason why anyone would go."
Rory McIlroy poses with Shane Lowry, Thomas Bjørn and Lee Westwood and their caddies at the 2022 Dubai Desert Classic, five months before LIV Golf would play its first event.
On Greg Norman's claim that LIV golf was imminent: "I think Greg is in a very tough position because he's taken the role of being the leader of something that is very divisive. … I just think he's in a no-win situation. He's made that decision himself, and he has to deal with the questions that are being thrown at him. It's certainly not a position that I'd like to be in."
Later in the month, asked again about his "dead in the water" pronouncement: "Yeah, I might have been a little presumptuous at that point. It seems like it's still going. Greg and everyone behind it are very determined. I think we're just going to have to see how it plays out. … It's going to shape the future of professional golf one way or another."
On his ideal resolution: "Honestly I'm rooting for it all to be over. I'm just so sick of talking about it. I've made my decision, and I know where I want to play, and I'm not standing in anyone's way, and I'm not saying that they shouldn't go over there and play if that's what they feel is right for them. … The sooner everything shakes out, I think we can all just go back to not talking about it and doing what we want to do."
On the announcement of the first LIV field: "I'd say indifferent is probably the way I would describe it. … I have some very close friends that are playing in this event in London. … It's not something that I would do personally. But I certainly understand why some of the guys have went, and it's something that we are all just going to keep an eye on and see what happens over these next few weeks. But I certainly don't think the field is anything to jump up and down about. Look the field this week [at the Memorial]. Look at the field next week in Canada. They are proper golf tournaments."
On how the PGA Tour should discipline the players: "I certainly don't think they should drop the hammer. Look, they are well within their rights to enforce the rules and regulations that have been set. … It's going to end up being an argument about what those rules and regulations are."
On the players who went to LIV: "As we've seen, it's a young man's game nowadays. So someone that isn't guaranteed their [PGA] Tour card next year, another entity comes along and says, we'll guarantee you this amount for three years, plus you're playing for a ton more prize money, and you're playing less events, you can spend more time with your family. I mean, whenever you sit down and look at some of those things, you know, it's very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position. … You at least have to try to put yourself in other people's shoes and see where they are coming from."
On going for the money: "I think for me, speaking to a few people yesterday and one of the comments was, anything, any decision that you make in your life that's purely for money usually doesn't 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."
On LIV preparing for its first event in London: "It's a shame that it's going to fracture the game. … The professional game is the window shop into golf. If the general public are confused about who is playing where and what tournament’s on this week and who is, you know, oh, he plays there, OK, and he doesn't get into these events. It just becomes so confusing."
On Jay Monahan suspending LIV players: "I think at this point, Jay's been pretty transparent in terms of he's just going to act within the tournament regulations and the rules that are set for a PGA Tour member. All he's doing is basically going by the book. I think that the majority of the membership that are here this week … really appreciate that."
On winning the Canadian Open the week of LIV's debut: "I alluded to it, I had extra motivation of what's going on across the pond. The guy that's spearheading that tour [Greg Norman] has 20 wins on the PGA Tour and I was tied with him and I wanted to get one ahead of him. And I did."
On getting his "dead in the water" prediction wrong: "I guess I took a lot of players' statements at face value [that they wouldn’t jump to LIV]. I guess that's what I got wrong. You had people committed to the PGA Tour, and that's what the statements that were put out. … I took them at their word, and I was wrong."
On why he chose to speak out on behalf of the PGA Tour: "Because in my opinion it's the right thing to do. The PGA Tour was created by people and tour players that came before us, the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. They created something and worked hard for something, and I hate to see all the players that came before us and all the hard work that they've put in just come out to be nothing. I think one of the other things as well is the PGA Tour has certainly given me a lot of opportunities, and I've benefited a lot from that."
On the ethics of the Saudi money, and the protests of the 9/11 families: "I think everything that's happening with [LIV], it legitimizes their place in the world. … I'm sure not every Saudi Arabian is a bad person … I've spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and the vast majority of people that I've met there are very, very nice people, but there's bad people everywhere. The bad people that came from that part of the world did some absolutely horrendous things. Of course, I understand where these families are coming from, and in this day and age everything is just so intertwined, and it's hard to separate sport from politics from dirty money from clean money. It's a very convoluted world right now. I certainly empathize with those families."
At the 2022 RBC Canadian Open, the same week as LIV Golf's inaugural event, Rory McIlroy took joy in winning his 21st PGA Tour title, one more than LIV commissioner Greg Norman.
On whether the players at LIV are complicit in the Saudis' sportswashing: "I don't think they're complicit in it. … They all have the choice to play where they want to play, and they've made their decision. My dad said to me a long time ago, ‘once you make your bed, you lie in it,’ and they've made their bed."
On potential impact on friendships: "I don't think it will strain any relationships. I'm still going to be close with the guys that have made the decision to play those events. It's not as if you agree on absolutely everything that all your friends do. You're going to have a difference of opinion on a lot of things. That's fine. That's what makes this a great world."
On whether it's a surrender competitively to join LIV: "Yes, because a lot of these guys are in their late 40s, in Phil's case, early 50s. Yeah, I think everyone in this room and they would say to you themselves that their best days are behind them. That's why I don't understand for the guys that are a similar age to me going because I would like to believe that my best days are still ahead of me, and I think theirs are, too. So that's where it feels like you're taking the easy way out."
On being the face of the PGA Tour: "Sometimes that's to my detriment, I guess, in some ways. But I'd rather be honest and speak my mind than just stand up here and give you mundane answers that aren't indicative of how I am actually thinking and feeling about the whole thing."
On Koepka going to LIV, and whether it surprised him: "Yes, because of what he said previously. I think that's why I'm surprised at a lot of these guys because they say one thing and then they do another, and I don't understand that … but it's pretty duplicitous on their part to say one thing and then do another thing."
On whether peace talks with LIV would be a good idea: "I think that needs to happen. It’s unfortunate, it’s messy … but I said this back at the very start in 2020, I think in the long term it will make the game better because I think it will force the tours to adapt and change and make the product better and focus on maybe the fan engagement side of things and focus on maybe some stuff that they’ve been neglecting over the years.”
On his most recent thoughts on Saudi funding: "Look, there’s so much chat about where the money’s coming from and Saudi and everything else, and they sponsor so many other things and they’re all over sport … Aramco are big sponsors of Formula 1, the Aramco Ladies Series in golf, which has actually been really good for the ladies in terms of big prize funds and so on, so I understand people’s reservations with everything. But at the same time, if these people are serious about investing billions of dollars into golf, I think ultimately that’s a good thing. … I just wish that we could have spent that much money within the structure that has existed for many decades in golf instead of being a big disruptor."
On the format of LIV itself: "There’s no room in the golf world for LIV Golf. I don’t agree with what LIV is doing. If LIV went away tomorrow, I’d be super happy. My stance hasn't softened on that … my stance on where the money is coming from is where I've sort of softened. … If these guys are willing to do that and scrap the whole LIV thing, that would be ideal."
With LIV Golf up and running, playing three events between June and July and boasting about the millions of dollars being spent to get the tour off the ground, a handful of top players who remained loyal to the PGA Tour, led by McIlroy and Tiger Woods, gathered ahead of the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in Delaware to discuss what could be done to try to stave off any more defectors to LIV.
On the players meeting in Delaware: "I think the one thing that came out of it, which I think was the purpose, is all the top players on this tour are in agreement and alignment of where we should go going forward, and that was awesome. … We need to get the top guys together more often."
On whether Mickelson was vindicated in his original comments about the PGA Tour’s issues: "As much as I probably don't want to give Phil any sort of credit at all, yeah, there were certain points that he was trying to make. But there's a way to go about them. There's a way to collaborate. … Were some of these ideas, did they have merit? Of course they did. But he just didn't approach it the right way."
Rory McIlroy is congratulated by PGA Tour commission Jay Monahan after winning the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup title in August 2022.
Kevin C. Cox
As players jumped to LIV Golf, Monahan was quick to act, suspending them from competing on the PGA Tour. Similarly, DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley suspended and fined his players who jumped to LIV, but a U.K. court ruled put such disciplinary acts on hold pending a full arbitration hearing for February 2023. In the meantime, LIV players could continue to play in DP World Tour events, making for some awkward interchanges.
On playing with LIV players at Wentworth in the BMW PGA: "My opinion is they shouldn't be here but again that's just my opinion. But we are all going to tee it up on the first tee tomorrow and we are all going to go play 72 holes, which is a novelty for them at this point, and then we'll go from there."
On a path for LIV players to return to the PGA Tour: "I mean, they can always go through Q School, yeah."
On his objections to the LIV format: "There is this pyramid and this funnel that has been so good for golf for so many years, and I don't think it's a broken system. So whenever something like this comes along that is incredibly disruptive and they are saying things about how golf needs to change, it doesn't need to change. … It's incredibly divisive, and does it bring more eyeballs on to golf? Probably, because people are interested in the soap opera of it all, but that's not golf. The most interesting thing about LIV is the rumors and who is going and who is not going. It's not the golf right now."
On LIV not getting OWGR points: "You can't make up your own rules. There's criteria there and everyone knows what they are. If they want to pivot to meet the criteria, they can, and then all of a sudden … I certainly have no problem with them getting World Ranking points, at all. … If you don't meet the criteria, it's going to be hard to justify why you should have them.”
On how peace might happen: "There's obviously two lawsuits going on at the minute, there's PGA Tour versus LIV [in the U.S. courts] and there's this one that's coming up with the DP World Tour in February. Nothing will happen if those two things are still going on, and then I think from whatever happens with those two things, there's a few things that I would like to see on the LIV side that needs to happen. I think Greg needs to go. I think he just needs to exit stage left. … But right now, it's a stalemate because there can't be any other way."
On the role he would play in any deal talks: "I don't need to be a part of it. Frankly, I wouldn't really want to be part of it. … I'm a golfer and I'm trying to stick to that line of work."
On defecting players: "All I’ve wanted to do in golf is be the best version of myself, to get the best out of myself, to compare myself to the greats and those I’ve looked up to growing up. The people who have gone to LIV have given all that up … I actually feel sorry for them. I feel sorry that they’ll never know—and maybe this will change—but they’ll never know how good they can be. And to me that’s the fundamental essence of playing a competitive sport."
On his declining relationship with Sergio: "On the Friday of the U.S. Open … I woke up to a text that was sent at 5:30 that morning. He had an early tee time, I didn’t, and I woke up to this text basically telling me to shut up about LIV, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I was pretty offended and sent him back a couple of daggers and that was it. … I don’t know why I felt so strongly about it. I talked to a few people, ‘Why does this bother me so much? It shouldn’t bother me as much as it does.’”
PART 3: LIV enters its second season, Rory burns out
While LIV struggled to make inroads with the public in 2022, the league gained a certain foothold in 2023 by virtue of both Brooks Koepka winning a major championship, and their obvious commitment to staying the course and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the league in the process. While the rhetoric between the two tours heated up, it became clear that LIV wasn’t going anywhere, and that the threat of poaching PGA Tour players would hang over the sport for at least the near future. For McIlroy, the burden of speaking on behalf of the PGA Tour for so long began to wear, and he hit a low point in early the year, particularly at the Masters, where he missed the cut.
On playing well in 2022 while being a de facto spokesperson: "There's no point in just being a mouthpiece when you can't back that up by playing good golf and showing people the rewards people can have out here if they are playing well. And it's a merit-based system. That's the thing that I've always struggled with: If a 5-year-old boy or girl know that they work hard and they shoot the scores, there's a merit-based system in golf all the way through junior golf, amateur golf, all the way up to the professional level and they can make it to the top levels of the game."
On how much the tour's schedule changes, including the introduction of designated events, were in response to LIV Golf: "A lot of it. I'm not going to sit here and lie; I think the emergence of LIV or the emergence of a competitor to the PGA Tour has benefited everyone that plays elite professional golf. I think when you've been the biggest golf league in the biggest market in the world for the last 60 years, there's not a lot of incentive to innovate. This has caused a ton of innovation at the PGA Tour, and what was quite, I would say, an antiquated system is being revamped to try to mirror where we're at in the world."
While LIV golfers, such as Patrick Reed, were still playing in DP World Tour events up to February 2023, the divide between them and those who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour was evident.
On his own time commitment: "When I went on the board of the PGA Tour, I didn't imagine it would take up this much time. But I think it's been important work, and I'm proud of the steps that we and the PGA Tour have made to try to make everything better for the membership and try to stem the flow of players that have went to LIV."
On his relationships with LIV players: "I see some of these guys at home, I see Brooks [Koepka] a lot, I see DJ a lot, we sort of practice at the same place. As you said, I think the more face time you get with some people, the more comfortable you become in some way. … It's OK to get on with Brooks and DJ and maybe not get on with some other guys that went to LIV, right. It's interpersonal relationships, that's just how it goes."
On European LIV players severing ties with the Ryder Cup: "I think it's a shame, right? I think it's a shame that you've got the highest points scorer ever in the Ryder Cup [Sergio Garcia] and two guys [Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter] that when they look back on their career, that's probably going to be at least a big chunk of their legacy is the roles that they have played in the Ryder Cup for Europe. For those three guys to not captain Europe one day, it's a shame."
On LIV players playing in the Ryder Cup: "I certainly think Brooks deserves to be on the United States team … but I have different feelings about the European team and the other side and sort of how that has all transpired and, yeah, I don't think any of those guys should be a part of the European team."
On his fatigue in 2023: "I wasn't gassed because of the golf. I was gassed because of everything that we've had to deal with in the golf world over the past 12 months and being right in the middle of it and being in that decision-making process. The golf's the easy part. I've always thought I've had a good handle on the perspective of things and where golf fits within my life, but I think over the last 12 months I'd lost sight of that, lost sight of the fact that there's more to life than the golf world and this silly little squabble that's going on between tours."
On where the professional game would be in a year: "I don't have a crystal ball."
On whether he wanted to speculate: "No."
On if he was making a conscious choice to talk less about LIV: "Yeah."
PART 4: The Framework Agreement and everything after
With the shocking news of the framework agreement hitting June 6, 2023, the PGA Tour vs. LIV saga took a sharp turn. Shock gave way to anger for some players on tour, and as for the framework agreement itself, a sense of confusion abounded—what was this, exactly? Rory claimed to be as surprised as anyone else, and from last summer to the present, his position has been defined by a commitment to reunion. That meant a growing tolerance for the PIF, which has evolved recently into overtly supporting their investment in the new Tour venture with the SSG, and total amnesty for the defecting players.
On hearing about the PGA Tour and LIV Golf signing a framework agreement for a possible partnership: "I got a text message on Monday night, I guess. From Jimmy Dunne … we had a chat. Took me through the news. Took me through the deal, structure of the deal, what it meant for us, what it meant for the DP World Tour. So, yeah, I learned about it pretty much at the same time everyone else did. … I think ultimately, when I try to remove myself from the situation and I look at the bigger picture, and I look at 10 years down the line, I think ultimately this is going to be, it's going to be good for the game of professional golf. I think it … unifies it and it secures its financial future."
On becoming a realist: "Whether you like it or not, the PIF were going to keep spending the money in golf. At least the PGA Tour now controls how that money is spent. So, you know, if you're thinking about one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world, would you rather have them as a partner or an enemy? At the end of the day, money talks and you would rather have them as a partner."
On LIV players potentially rejoining the PGA Tour: "There still has to be consequences to actions. The people that left the PGA Tour irreparably harmed this tour, started litigation against it. Like, we can't just welcome them back in. Like, that's not going to happen. And I think that was the one thing that Jay was trying to get across yesterday is like, guys, we're not just going to bring these guys back in and pretend like nothing's happened. That is not going to happen."
On his personal feelings: "It's hard for me to not sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb and feeling like I've put myself out there and this is what happens. Again, removing myself from the situation, I see how this is better for the game of golf. There's no denying that."
On LIV: "I still hate LIV. Like, I hate LIV. Like, I hope it goes away. And I would fully expect that it does. And I think that's where the distinction here is. This is the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the PIF. Very different from LIV."
McIlroy acknowledged hurt feelings when the PGA Tour and PIF signed their framework agreement in June 2023.
On the public perception of the merger: "I said it to Jay yesterday, you've galvanized everyone against something and that thing that you galvanized everyone against you've now partnered with. So, yeah, of course I understand it. It is hypocritical. It sounds hypocritical."
On coming to terms with Saudi influence: "I see what's happened in other sports. I see what's happened in other businesses. And, honestly, I've just resigned myself to the fact that this is, you know, this is what's going to happen. … It's very hard to keep up with people that have more money than anyone else. And, again, if they want to put that money into the game of golf, then why don't we partner with them and make sure that it's done in the right way."
On the players' meeting: "It was heated. People were surprised. People felt like they were in the dark about all this. Look, most of the gripes come from the guys that are, you know, trying to hold onto their cards. … They were already feeling somewhat vulnerable. And, honestly, it's hard for me to relate to those guys, because I've never been in that position. I try to empathize with it, but it's hard for me."
On LIV: "If LIV Golf was the last place on Earth to play golf, I would retire. That’s how I feel about it."
On his involvement, and how it has changed: "Maybe less emotionally involved. Last year it was to do with, ‘how can we make the product of the PGA Tour better?,’ and I think I was really invested in that. So when it comes to, like, governance and investment and all that. … Not that I don't care about it, but it doesn't excite me as much as making the product better and how can we make this the most competitive landscape to play professional golf and how can we get all the best players to play together."
On PIF's involvement in golf: "The only thing I would say about the PIF investments in other sports is that they went in and played within the ecosystems of those other sports. They didn’t try to buy F1, they didn’t try to buy the Premier League … the way I’ve looked at it is if the PIF are really interested in golf and they want to get in the system, at least if we provide them with a pathway to play within the system where they are not taking over the sport. It neutralizes any threat of LIV becoming something that it hopefully shouldn’t become. And they play within the boundaries that are set within our sport."
On his acceptance of PIF's involvement: "You see everything else happening in the world, you see big private equity companies in America taking their money — the biggest companies in the world. There’s a lot of whataboutism and all that stuff, but at the same time, if this is what is happening, then the way I’ve framed it is that the world has decided for me."
On the delay in making a deal: "I think getting something done sooner rather than later is a good thing … even if we get a deal done, it doesn't mean that it's actually going to happen. That's up to the United States government at that point, and whether the Department of Justice thinks that it's the right thing to do or whether anti-competitive or whatever. Even if a deal does get done, it's not a sure thing … but in my opinion, the faster something gets done, the better."
On whether he was enjoying his spot on the board: "Not particularly, no. Not what I signed for whenever I went on the board."
Less than two weeks after making this comment, McIlroy formally resigned his position on the board, eventually being replaced by Jordan Spieth.
On resigning his board position: "I just think I've got a lot going on in my life between my golf game, my family and my growing investment portfolio, my involvement in TGL, and I just felt like something had to give. I just didn't feel like I could commit the time and the energy into doing that."
In November 2023, Jon Rahm won the DP World Tour Championship and Rory McIlroy earned the year-long Race to Dubai title, both claiming their rewards from DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley. Less than a month later, Rahm has signed with LIV Golf and McIlroy had stepped down from the PGA Tour Policy Board.
On PIF being potentially shut out: "I would hope when we go through this process, the PIF are the ones that are involved in the framework agreement. Obviously, there’s been other suitors that have been involved and offering their services and their help … I sincerely hope that the PIF are involved and we can bring the game of golf back together."
On Rahm going to LIV: "I have nothing but good things to say about Jon … the thing I realized is you can't judge someone for making a decision that they feel is the best thing for them. Is it disappointing for me? Yes. But the landscape of golf changed on June 6, whenever the framework agreement was announced. I think because of that it made the jump from PGA Tour to LIV a little bit easier for guys. They let the first guys take the heat. This framework agreement legitimized basically what LIV was trying to do."
On the prospect of Rahm playing in the Ryder Cup: "Jon is going to be in Bethpage in 2025. … The European Tour is going to have to rewrite the rules for Ryder Cup eligibility. Absolutely. There's no question about that. I certainly want Jon on the next Ryder Cup team."
On a continued split in the game: "My fear is that we continue down this path where we have competing tours, and it divides the eyeballs that are on the game, some people like LIV, the majority of people like PGA Tour. But if LIV start to take a few players each and every year, it's really going to be divided. And that's no good for anyone, you're basically cannibalizing yourself as a sport. … We need to get everyone back together and try to forget about what's happened in the past, let bygones be bygones and we all move forward together, and I think that's what's going to be the best thing for the professional game."
On his current feelings on LIV defectors: "I was maybe a little judgmental of the guys who went at the start. I think it was a bit of a mistake on my part because I now realize that not everyone is in my position or in Tiger's position. You get this offer, and what do you do? We all turn professional to make a living playing the sports that we do. I think that's what I realized over the last two years. I can't judge people for making that decision, so if I regret anything, it was probably being too judgmental at the start."
On what's preventing a global tour: "I think just different interests...I think what we need to do first is align interests of the players and the business and the fans and the media and try to get everyone's interests aligned. And then once you do that, then you can move forward. So it's the aligning of interests, which is the big key to trying to get to that dream scenario."
On whether he campaigns to fellow tour pros: "I'm done with that."
On Jordan Spieth's remark that PIF might not need to be involved in the PGA Tour's future after the tour annoucned a $3 billion deal with the Strategic Sports Group: "I talked to him about his comments, and we had a pretty frank discussion. My thing was if I’m the original investor that thought that they were going to get this deal done back in July, and I’m hearing a board member say that, you know, we don’t really need them, now, how are they going to think about that, what are they gonna feel about that? They are still sitting out there with hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions, that they're gonna pour it into sport ... not having them as your partner, I don't think is an option for the game of golf."
On Tyrrell Hatton going to LIV: "At the end of the day everyone needs to do what's right for them. I had a long talk with Tyrrell on Sunday, completely understood where he was coming from. … I'm not going to stand in anyone's way from making money and if what they deem life changing money … who knows, Tyrrell might still play TGL in 10 months' time depending on what happens."
On punishment for players who may return to the PGA Tour from LIV: "If people still have eligibility on this tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try and do something, let them come back. … I think it's hard to punish people. … Obviously I've changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA Tour and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties."