Rory McIlroy acknowledged Wednesday that he doesn’t have “much of a relationship at the minute” with some of the more prominent European players who have defected for LIV Golf.
Speaking at the BMW PGA Championship, where 18 LIV members are teeing it up alongside some of the best players on the DP World Tour, McIlroy took a few subtle shots at LIV but said that he hasn’t had any early-week run-ins with players at Wentworth.
Last month, after winning the PGA Tour’s FedExCup, McIlroy said it was “hard to stomach” that more than a dozen LIV players would be competing at the DP World Tour’s flagship event. But he said that the energy on-site, so far, hasn’t been hostile or toxic.
“It is what it is,” he said. “They are here. They are playing the golf tournament. My opinion is they shouldn’t be here, but again, that’s just my opinion.
“But 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.”
That wasn’t all McIlroy had to say on the matter.
McIlroy was asked whether he’s been able to maintain relationships with Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia, longtime Ryder Cup teammates who have supported their new bosses at LIV Golf and openly criticized the European tour.
Poulter and Garcia were among the LIV players who asked questions at Tuesday’s players’ meeting at the BMW PGA, but McIlroy decided not to attend after being so closely involved with tour matters over the past year and a half.
“It wasn’t really a situation I wanted to get myself in knowing who was going to be in that room,” he said. “So I removed myself from it and let them hash it out.”
DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley said Wednesday that the meeting – previewed as possibly being contentious – was “very short” and that the LIV players’ questions were answered. Without specifically naming players, Pelley also expressed disappointment that some of the longtime European tour members have so publicly bashed the tour that “gave you a platform to build your career.”
Pelley instead cited the example of Louis Oosthuizen, who phoned the DP World Tour boss that he was leaving for LIV Golf and “has not said one word against us publicly since. He’s a gentleman, and I wish him nothing but the best.”
“Others, however,” Pelley continued, “have not conducted themselves in that way, and that is my biggest personal disappointment over the past few months.”
And those players turned up at Wentworth for what is the first week of qualifying for the 2023 Ryder Cup. It’s currently unclear whether those LIV players would be allowed to participate in upcoming matches.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve got much of a relationship with them at the minute,” McIlroy said, when asked specifically about Westwood, Poulter and Garcia. “But if you’re just talking about the Ryder Cup, like, that’s not the future of the Ryder Cup team.”
McIlroy pointed to the impact of the strengthened strategic alliance between the PGA and DP World tours, which will see the top 10 players in the season-long Race to Dubai standings earn Tour cards.
“Like, that’s the future of the Ryder Cup – the Hojgaards, Bobby [MacIntyre], whoever else is coming up. They are the future of the Ryder Cup team,” McIlroy said. “That’s what we should be thinking about and talking about.”
But isn’t it sad, a reporter followed up, that those personal relationships have been strained?
“Yeah, but I haven’t done anything different,” McIlroy said. “They are the ones that have made that decision. So I can sit here and keep my head held high and say I haven’t done anything differently.”
The PGA Tour has indefinitely suspended players who left for LIV Golf. The DP World Tour has different rules and regulations, and a court case, slated for February 2023, will determine the competitive fate of those members. McIlroy was asked whether he saw a way back for LIV players who wanted to return to the established tours.
“They can always go through Q-School, yeah,” he said.
McIlroy is playing three of the next four weeks on the DP World Tour, including next week’s Italian Open and the Dunhill Links at the end of the month. Currently leading the Race to Dubai standings, he could become the second player to capture both tours’ biggest season-long prizes in the same season.
At the end of his press conference, a reporter asked McIlroy whether there’d be extra incentive to win if he found himself in a battle for the BMW PGA title with a LIV member.
He couldn’t resist a final dig.
“I’ll be trying to win a golf tournament regardless,” he said. “They are going to be pretty tired on Sunday – it will be the fourth day.
“But no, look, I’ll be trying to win a golf tournament regardless. My focus is I’m in a great position in the Race to Dubai and I want to finish the season off well, because I think it would be a really cool double to do.”