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Ryder Cup

Rahm, McIlroy among top players voicing different opinions on whether LIV golfers should play in the Ryder Cup

October 08, 2022
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Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy have been teammates on the last two European Ryder Cup teams.

Stuart Franklin

Should LIV golfers be able to compete in PGA Tour and DP World Tour events? Ask tour pros who haven’t jumped to the upstart Saudi-backed rival, and the answer is an almost universal “NO.” It was them or us, and they chose them. 

Ask those same players loyal to the PGA/DP World Tours whether LIV golfers should be able to play in the Ryder Cup, however, and the answers aren’t quite as definitive. On multiple occasions during the summer, Jon Rahm, a standout on the last two European Ryder Cup teams, expressed his hope that the schism consuming the men’s professional game wouldn’t dilute the biennial competition.

“The Ryder Cup is not the PGA Tour and European Tour against LIV. It's Europe versus the U.S.—period,” Rahm was quoted Saturday in The Telegraph. “The best of each against the other, and for me the Ryder Cup is above all.”

It’s a similar sentiment held by Matt Fitzpatrick, the reigning U.S. Open champion and another top European player. In preparation for next year’s Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club outside Rome, Fitzpatrick competed there last month in the Italian Open.

“I just want to win the Ryder Cup. ... I want the 11 best guys we can get," Fitzpatrick said in Italy. "I'm not really too bothered about where they are going to come from."

Those thoughts differ from arguably the most ardent defender of the PGA/DP World Tours in the wake of the LIV uprising: Rory McIlroy.

"I have said it once, I've said it a hundred times: I don't think any of those guys should be on the Ryder Cup team," McIlroy said while playing alongside Fitzpatrick in Italy.

Exactly how things will shake out ahead of next September’s match at Marco Simone remains unclear. Zach Johnson and Luke Donald, captains of the U.S. and European teams, respectively, were in Rome this past week promoting the matches in a “Year to Go” publicity blitz. The pair played at Marco Simone, took a tour of the famed city, had photos taken hitting balls outside the Colosseum and even visited Pope Francis, presenting him a replica of the Ryder Cup trophy.

American golfers now competing on the LIV Golf circuit are still listed on the official U.S. Ryder Cup points list that will determine six automatic qualifiers for Johnson’s team. However, Johnson noted over the summer that only American players who are PGA of America members will be able to ultimately earn points, and the way tour pros become members of the PGA of America is through being members of the PGA Tour, which is no LIV golfers are not.

“I’ll let you connect the dots from there,” he said.

As for Donald’s European team, a hearing is set to take place the U.K. in February to determine if the DP World Tour can prevent LIV golfers from playing in tour events and earning points to play on the European Ryder Cup team. Until then, LIV golfers continue to do both, with 18 LIV players competing at last month’s BMW PGA Championship and nearly a dozen playing a week ago at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

"We're still a little bit in limbo,” Donald said last month. “We don't know what's going to happen with the lawsuit so I'm trying to not really put too much energy into it. Once we get a clearer picture, I can give you better answers."

Still, Donald is hopeful that no matter what the outcome is, that the matches themselves can still produce the excitement and drama players and fans have come to associate with the event.

“The history of the Ryder Cup is vital really, I think. What’s so great about the Ryder Cup is that it does garner an interest in a new generation of players and fans to this game,” Donald said this past week. “I think it’s always an inspiration to the fans, to anyone.

“The Ryder Cup is bigger than any individual player and it’s a great way to unify everyone. I think it will continue to do that.”