Friday, May 24, 2024

Rory McIlroy compares Saudi–PGA Tour talks to Northern Ireland peace process and Good Friday Agreement

Must read

Board member Webb Simpson was happy to cede his place to McIlroy, but the world number two explained ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship that is not possible right now due to complications (possibly governance related) and he’d continue working to reunify the game from outside the fold.

The four-time major champion stepped off the board last November, stating that the direction of travel was “not what I signed up for” following last June’s shock merger announcement between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s PIF.

He’s had differences of opinion with board members such as Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth about welcoming back LIV Golf players and the need to do a deal with the PIF even with $1.5billion in capital from the Strategic Sports Group.

Today’s Sport News in 90 Seconds – 8th May

The Holywood star wants to see the creation of some kind of world tour with at least 12 events outside the US but admits a compromise might be tough for both sides to swallow.

“Yeah, there’s been a lot of conversations,” McIlroy said at Quail Hollow. “Sort of reminded me partly why I didn’t.

“So yeah, I think it just, it got pretty complicated and pretty messy and I think with the way it happened, I think it opened up some old wounds and scar tissue from things that have happened before.

“I think there was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason.

“I think the best course of action is if, you know, there’s some people on there that aren’t comfortable with me coming back on, then I think Webb just stays on and sees out his term, and I think he’s gotten to a place where he’s comfortable with doing that and I just sort of keep doing what I’m doing.

“I put my hand up to help and it was – I wouldn’t say it was rejected, it was a complicated process to get through to put me back on there. So that’s all fine, no hard feelings and we’ll all move on.”

The Co Down man compared the difficulty of the negotiations between the PGA Tour and the PIF to the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s.

“I sort of liken it to like when Northern Ireland went through the peace process in the ’90s and the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.

“Neither side was happy. Catholics weren’t happy, Protestants weren’t happy, but it brought peace and then you just sort of learn to live with whatever has been negotiated, right?

“That was in 1998 or whatever it was and 20, 25, 30 years ahead, my generation doesn’t know any different. It’s just this is what it’s always been like and we’ve never known anything but peace.

“It’s my little way of trying to think about it and make both sides see that there could be a compromise here.

“Yeah, it’s probably not going to feel great for either side, but if it’s a place where the game of golf starts to thrive again and we can all get back together, then I think that’s ultimately a really good thing.”

McIlroy explained that the difficulties include convincing PGA Tour hardliners to accept a global schedule.

“It could be if we go to more of a global schedule, do the American players that are used to playing all their golf in America want to travel outside of the States 12 times a year to play tournament golf, you know? That’s a consideration,” he said.

“There’s the fact that if we all sort of come back together, there’s only – I think from the LIV contingent there’s only seven players over there that have status, still have status or eligibility here.

“But would it be palatable to the rest of the membership if they come back with – after seeing out their contract and they’ve financially got ahead by potentially hundreds of millions of dollars over the people that stayed?

“That’s a consideration.

“I don’t think it’s a huge consideration because, you know, it’s – again, like if you’re just thinking big picture and what’s good for the game of golf and what’s good for the Tom Kims of the world in 10 or 15 years’ time and they’re still playing professional golf, you want to set it up in a way where those younger guys have all the same opportunities if not more than the opportunities that we had at that time.

“So this is – it’s not really about the here and now. It is a little bit, but it’s also about how does this thing look 10, 15, 20 years down the line.”

He added: “I’m still optimistic. I think Webb staying on is a really good thing. I think he’s got a really balanced voice in all of this and I think he sees the bigger picture, which is great.

“My fear was if Webb stepped off and it wasn’t me that was going in his place, what could potentially happen. Yeah, I’m really happy that Webb has made that decision to stay on and serve out the rest of his term.”

As for his reasons for wanting to see an agreement, McIlroy pointed to the long term health of the men’s professional game, which has been fractured for more than two years following the emergence of LIV Golf.

“I would say that golf and the PGA Tour has been so good to me over the years, I just feel like it’s my obligation or duty to try to give back and try to set the next generation of players up like we were set up by the previous generation,” he said.

“So Jack, Arnie, the guys that really helped build the PGA Tour and helped it thrive, and Tiger obviously, to get it to where it is today, I think there’s a responsibility with every generation to try to leave the Tour, leave the place that you’re playing in a bit of a better spot than it was before. That’s what it’s about.”

Latest article