Running Backs Preview Part Two
Talking the business of sports
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Rory McIlroy has been the foremost spokesman for the PGA Tour in its current tussle with burgeoning rival LIV Golf. McIlroy has often (and loudly) spoken out against the new league, drawing a line in the sand for what he wants professional golf to look like going into a future in which the PGA Tour would remain the premier league in the world.
However, at the JP McManus Pro-Am last week, as it relates to some of the language he used when discussing Saudi Arabia, LIV Golf and the future of the sport.
“I think [a meeting between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf] needs to happen,” he told BBC. “There’s so much chat about where the money is coming from and Saudi [Arabia] and everything else. They sponsor so many other things. They’re all over sport. I understand people’s reservations with everything, but at the same time, if these people are serious about investing billions of dollars into golf, I think ultimately that’s a good thing.”
He elaborated on that thought.
“[Saudi oil company] Aramco are big sponsors of Formula One, the Aramco Ladies Series in golf, which has actually been really good for the ladies in terms of big prize funds and so on, so I understand people’s reservations with everything,” McIlroy said. “But at the same time, if these people are serious about investing billions of dollars into golf, I think ultimately that’s a good thing. But it has to be done the right way, and I think if they were to invest, having it be invested inside the existing structures. And I think that’s the thing I’ve tried to advocate for the last few months. I think at this point, if people are wanting to spend that much money into golf, that’s wonderful. I just wish that we could have spent that much money within the structure that has existed for many decades in golf instead of being this big disruptor.”
Given his outspoken position over the past several months, many wondered whether this was an about face by McIlroy.
, McIlroy clarified his stance.
“I don’t think [my tone] shifted in terms of the internal dialogue that we’ve had going on for a while,” said McIlroy. “I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details of what’s going on behind the scenes. In my opinion … there’s no room in the golf world for LIV Golf. Let’s put it that way. I don’t agree with what LIV is doing. If LIV went away tomorrow, I’d be super happy. My stance hasn’t softened on that.”
McIlroy continued: “My stance on where the money is coming from is where I’ve sort of softened because I just look at every other sport and I see the money that’s going in there, and I can see what benefits that has. It’s hard because, ultimately, do you want more money being invested into the PGA Tour? I think, yes, that would be great. And if these guys are willing to do that and scrap the whole LIV thing [that would be ideal]. …
“Yasir [Al-Rumayyan], the head of the [Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia], he loves golf. Do you think these people around him want to facilitate a meeting with the powers that be, whether it be Keith Pelley [CEO of the DP World Tour] or Jay Monahan [commissioner of the PGA Tour]? Probably not because, all of a sudden, their job is in jeopardy.
“My stance hasn’t softened on LIV, per se. I don’t agree with what they’re doing in the sport. My stance has maybe softened on the investment side of things or in terms of: Is there a way [to] play ball and invest in the wider golf ecosystem where this can benefit everyone instead of just benefiting 48 guys? And that’s sort of my whole thing on it. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but that’s basically what I was trying to say in those comments in that BBC interview a few days ago.”
In other words, McIlroy is against the concept and existence of LIV Golf; however, he views the infusion of Saudi money into the game as an inevitability, one which would ideally would see funds funneled into existing structures instead of a separate tour.
The obvious question that remains is why McIlroy, who was previously outspoken about the source of LIV Golf’s funding (Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia), has shifted on that investment origination.
“It’s changed because I see — golf may be different — but I see the money that’s going into Formula 1, for example, or [into] European soccer or a world heavyweight title fight is just about to be in Saudi Arabia in a few weeks,” he said. “They’re investing heavily in sport, and I think our sport would benefit from that investment as long as it’s done the right way. I don’t want them to own golf like they’re trying to do, but if they can sort of come and play nicely in the whole ecosystem, I think it could be a good thing.”
McIlroy sees that this money is going to go somewhere in golf, and he would rather it be going into the PGA Tour or DP World Tour than into a breakaway tour that doesn’t benefit the sport as a whole.
Asked about it again Tuesday during The Open Championship at St. Andrews, McIlroy deferred to his comments to CBS Sports.
“If you actually read the two [comments], I wouldn’t say they’re contradictory,” said McIlroy. “Basically, I said the same thing. Like I’ll point everyone back to [the CBS Sports] article that we went through a few days ago that I sort of laid all my points out in that.”
Nobody knows what will come of any of this. Will the PGA Tour take a meeting with LIV Golf? Will LIV Golf continue to siphon players from both tours into its league? When will it all settle? Where will it all end? There are so many unknowns beyond the certainty, it seems that is LIV Golf continuing to pour money into the sport in some form.
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