News & Tours

Rory McIlroy is still against LIV Golf, but points to soccer, F1 as ways the PGA Tour could work with Saudi PIF

September 07, 2023

Richard Heathcote

STRAFFAN, Ireland — Rory McIlroy sees a clear difference between Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and its golf investment, LIV Golf. He is no fan of the latter, but acknowledges the former’s foray into major sports around the world—and its desire to be further involved in pro golf via a framework deal with the PGA Tour.

That was the takeaway from a chat the Northern Irish star had with Golf Weekly’s Off The Ball podcast this week at the Irish Open at the K Club. On Thursday, McIlroy began the Irish Open with a solid opening round of three-under 69 to be three shots off the clubhouse lead.

The four-time major winner said he felt the PIF had been collaborative with sports it has backed, notably in soccer. The PIF also has invested in the famed English Premier League club Newcastle United, as well as starting the Saudi Pro League that has signed megastars Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Karim Benzema. PIF also has ties with Formula 1 and mixed martial arts.

“The only thing I would say about the PIF investments in other sports is that they went in and played with the ecosystems of those other sports,” McIlroy said. “They didn’t try to buy F1, they didn’t try to buy the [English] Premier League. Yes, they bought a Premier League football club in Newcastle, and it’s worked out really well for them.”

McIlroy said the hoped a similar structure would be part of the framework agreement being negotiated between the PGA Tour and the PIF. The framework agreement proposes the PIF be a minority investment in a new, for-profit entity that the PGA Tour would control operationally. The two sides have under Dec. 31 to work out a more permanent arrangement

“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,” McIlroy said.

“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, and we all go from there.”

Watch McIlroy’s chat with Off The Ball here: