Rory McIlroy to LIV Golf mastermind: "What is it you want?!"

Rory McIlroy has revealed he had prior knowledge a PGA Tour official was going to reach out to LIV Golf at the height of the game's 'civil war'. 

Ben Smith's picture
Wed, 3 Jan 2024
Rory McIlroy to LIV Golf mastermind: "What is it you want?!"

Rory McIlroy has revealed he had prior knowledge a PGA Tour official was going to reach out to LIV Golf at the height of golf's 'civil war'. 

McIlroy, 34, made the revelation in a bombshell interview on Sky Bet's Stick to Football in a discussion with former Premier League footballers Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Ian Wright and Jamie Carragher. 

In the interview McIlroy admitted regret over how he has handled the battle against the Saudi-backed rival. 

He has viewed the world how he wants to see it but now he has come to accept reality, he said. 

The four-time major champion stopped short in admitting defeat against LIV

On 6 June 2023 the landscape of men's professional golf changed considerably after the PGA Tour announced a framework agreement with LIV Golf's financiers, the PIF of Saudi Arabia, that would ultimately see the two organisations become commercial partners. 

That agreement was supposed to be ratified on 31 December 2023 but there are hopes a deal could be struck before the 48th Masters in April. 

After the announcement, the framework agreement came under intense scrutiny from the U.S. government. 

Two PGA Tour officials were grilled by members of Congress. A raft of documents were released beforehand and one suggested McIlroy met with LIV supremo and Newcastle United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan in person. 

McIlroy later complained of being the Tour's 'sacrificial lamb' in light of the framework agreement announcement but he has now admitted there was 'a plan' to get in contact with the other side after his meeting. 

The abruptness of the deal to make a deal still surprised him, he said. 

"I've basically went through the last two years with this altruistic approach of, I've sort of looked at the world in the way I wanted to see it," he said

"Instead of just, sort of, going through life ... I've accepted reality basically and this is what's going to happen. 

"You can say what you want and do what you want but at the end of the day you're not going to be able to change peoples' minds. 

"You're never going to be able to make a decision based on what you say.

"Have I lost the fight? I don't feel like I've lost the fight but I've just accepted the fact that this is part of our sport now."

Pressed by Wright if he would do anything different, McIlroy said: "I think at this point, I was maybe a little...I was probably [too] judgemental of the guys that went at the start [and] I think that was a bit of a mistake on my part because I realise not everyone is in my position or Tiger's position."

Neville pressed McIlroy about the 6 June deal and if he felt 'completely deflated' by the announcement. 

McIlroy explained: "No not really, so I met Yasir in 2022 in Dubai and just said, 'Look, what is it you want? What do you want to do in golf?' 

"We had a really good chat and he loves the game and he wants to do certain things. He thinks the team element can really take off and he wants to build franchise value and I understood some of it. 

"So I got back to America at the start of this year [whilst] I was on the board of the PGA Tour and I said to the guys, 'Somebody has got to go and talk to to this guy.'

"So there was a plan that was put in place that one of the board members was going to try and develop a relationship with him and see if we can try and figure something out and all move forward together. 

"I knew conversations were being had but I didn't know it was all going to happen so quickly. So when the framework agreement was announced a lot of the players were blindsided by it."

He continued: "They met [PGA Tour officials and Al-Rumayyan] in April and got this agreement done in June so it happened very, very quickly and people were like, 'What has gone on?!" 

McIlroy claimed his resignation from the PGA Tour's policy board was simply down to the fact it was taking up too much of his time. 

He added that he now hopes everyone puts their egos aside and comes back together. 

"To me, what I hope LIV would turn into is kind of like the IPL of golf and they take two months in the calendar I'd be like, 'Yeah, that's sounds like fun', because then you are at least working within the ecosystem."

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