Rory McIlroy concerned about Saudi cash impacting 'competitive integrity'

Rory McIlroy has expressed his concern about “competitive integrity” over the huge sums of money being thrown at players in next week’s Saudi International.

While McIlroy isn’t in the field for an event that is now on the Asian Tour as opposed to the renamed DP World Tour, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson are among those heading to Royal Greens in King Abdullah Economic City.

Players have been granted special releases by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour to tee up in the event, which now has former world No 1 Greg Norman involved in it through his role as CEO of LIV Golf Investments.

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“I've always thought that rival golf tours are just going to make these tours better,” said McIlroy, speaking ahead of his return to the Dubai Desert Classic this week, of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

Rory McIlroy talks to the media ahead of the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.

“I think competition is a good thing. I think any business needs competition for things to progress and move on. I don't think that's a problem.

“Just the one thing I would worry about is if guys go to Saudi and they are going to make ten percent of their yearly income just by going and playing and restricting them from doing that, punishing them, that creates resentment for the players and that creates a problem between the tours.

“Look, it's a tricky one. Everyone knows it's a tricky one. But, and I said this in the Bahamas (during the Hero World Challenge in December), I certainly don't blame anyone for going and doing it. At the end of the day, it's our job and livelihood. If someone comes and offers you that sort of money, it's hard to say no.”

McIlroy was asked if he felt the reaction of the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour to Norman having £200 million of Saudi money to pump into the Asian Tour had created a divide in the game.

“I think the best course of action is to concentrate on what you're doing and doing it to the best of your ability,” added the four-time major winner.

“It's the competitive integrity to me that's one of the biggest issues here, right. It's like how hard are guys going to compete when they know that they are guaranteed whatever the money is.

“Even when I started to get appearance fees back in 2009 or whatever, I struggled with that, going to tournaments in Korea and Japan feeling like I've already won before I teed it up and had to get over that mental battle of that as well.”

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Paul Casey, the defending champion in Dubai this week, is among the European players in the Saudi International line up, having also played last year after having a change of heart about heading there.

“Last year I spoke about it and I still have my relationship with UNICEF,” said the Englishman.

“it's a very difficult thing to try to communicate what happens in our golf space with revenues. It's a very difficult thing to communicate to the general public, because the numbers are incredible.

"It's a delicate topic, and I tend to not talk about money. A lot of us just want to play golf.”

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