McIlroy softens stance on LIV players returning to PGA Tour
‘I’m not going to stand in anyone’s way from making money,’ Irishman says
Rory McIlroy concedes he has “changed his tune” on the issue of LIV golfers returning to play on the PGA Tour, with the four-time Major champion now saying they should be able to come back without being punished.
The Northern Irishman has been a vocal critic of the breakaway tour since it launched in 2022 and signed up many big names, causing a rift that threatened to tear golf apart.
McIlroy previously accused some of those who jumped ship of being duplicitous and said he would rather retire than join the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway circuit.
However, with negotiations on a merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf ongoing, and McIlroy’s Ryder Cup teammates Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton making the switch to LIV, the 34-year-old has recently softened his position on the rival tour.
“I think life is about choices. Guys made choices to play LIV, guys made choices to stay here,” he told reporters on Tuesday before the Pebble Beach Pro-Am tournament.
“I think it’s hard to punish people. I don’t think there should be a punishment.
“If people still have eligibility on this tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try to do something, let them come back.
“Obviously, I’ve changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA Tour and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties.”
Englishman Hatton is the latest big name to join LIV, the world No 16 set to be part of an expansion team captained by Masters champion Rahm.
“I had a long talk with Tyrrell on Sunday, and completely understood where he was coming from,” McIlroy said.
“It got to the point where they negotiated and got to a place he was comfortable with and he has to do what he feels is right for him.
“I’m not going to stand in anyone’s way from making money and if what they deem life-changing money.”
Meanwhile, LIV have introduced their first expansion team, Legion XIII, which will be captained by reigning Masters champion Rahm.
The first new team to join the league since its 2022 inception, and the 13th overall, Legion XIII will also include England’s Hatton, Kieran Vincent of Zimbabwe and top amateur and reigning SEC individual champion Caleb Surratt of Tennessee.
Legion XIII will debut at LIV Golf’s season-opening event, LIV Golf Mayakoba, starting on Friday at El Camaleon Golf Course in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
“We’ve come a long way in a short period and are extremely proud of the team and brand we are building,” said Rahm.
“As we were developing the team’s brand it became clear that I wanted to fight alongside a group of guys who aligned perfectly with what the team stands for.
“Tyrrell is a fierce competitor, proven champion, and of course my Ryder Cup teammate.
“Caleb is one of the brightest next-gen stars of the game.
“And Kieran is a steady, talented ball striker who earned his promotion to LIV and is elevating his game every day.”
In addition to the 2023 Masters title, Rahm, 29, has 20 professional wins including the 2021 US Open and three DP World Tour Championships (2017, 2019, 2022).
The Spaniard has helped Europe to two Ryder Cup victories (2018, 2023).
Hatton, 32, also represented Europe in the past three Ryder Cups and is a six-time champion on the DP World Tour.
Surratt, 19, is turning pro to join Legion XIII after a record-setting career at Tennessee, where he became that university’s first player to receive first-team All-America honours.
“The opportunity to turn pro and be a part of Jon Rahm’s team is truly a special opportunity that is a great fit for me. I’m excited about the chance to compete and begin my professional career here in Mayakoba,” Surratt said.
Vincent, 26, turned pro in 2022 after playing golf at Liberty University.
He will be part of the only sibling duo in the league — his brother, Scott, plays for Iron Heads GC.
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