Rory McIlroy keeps quiet on golf's path forward - 'loose lips sinks ships'
The golf world was shocked in June after it was announced that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour had struck a “framework agreement” with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, halting civil litigation between the US circuit and the breakaway LIV Golf League.
As a December 31 deadline looms, it emerged recently that the PGA Tour had also begun a formal process to review outside investments separate from its negotiations over a deal with PIF, with interested potential investors reported to include sports conglomerate Endeavor and Fenway Sports Group, owners of Boston Red Sox and Liverpool.
In his press conference for this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, it was suggested to McIlroy, who sits on the PGA Tour’s policy board, that the waters seem to be “muddy” at the moment and he agreed that it seemed unlikely that anything will be happening before the end of the year as far as a possible PIF deal is concerned due to the fact it needs to be ratified by the US government. But the world No 2, who admitted he is keen for a proposed new global landscape for the game to be shaped as soon as possible, also gave a clear indication that work is progressing behind the scenes and said the only reason things are being kept private for the time being is because they are not yet ready for public consumption.
“I think if you were in the middle of it, you would see that there's a path forward,” said McIlroy, speaking at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where he’s being joined in the $10 million Rolex Series event by all of his team-mates from Europe’s Ryder Cup win in Rome in September. “It's just that no one on the outside has any details, right. Loose lips sink ships, so we are trying to keep it tight and within walls. I'm sure when there's news to tell, it will be told.”
Asked about the chatter around the framework agreement suggesting that the deadline at the end of the year now seems to be ambitious, he replied: “Yeah, I would say that's right. Even if a deal does get done, it doesn't mean that it's actually going to happen. That's up to the United States government at that point and whether the Department of Justice think that it's the right thing to do or whether it’s anti-competitive or whatever. So we are just going to have to wait and see. But, in my opinion, the faster something gets done, the better.”
The Northern Irishman served as the chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council in 2021 before taking on his current position as one of four player directors on the policy board. “Not particularly, no,” he replied, smiling, to being asked if he was enjoying having a seat at this particular table. “Not what I signed for when I went on the board. But the game of professional golf has been in flux for the last two years.”
Before he’d even arrived in the United Arab Emirates for this week’s season finale, McIlroy had been crowned as European No 1 for a fifth time after Pole Adrian Meronk and Kiwi Ryan Fox were unable to pick up sufficient points in last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa to still be in with a chance of catching him in the Race to Dubai Rankings.
“I probably would have liked to have done it another way,” admitted McIlroy of topping the standings again. “But I've played well when I've came back over to the DP World Tour this year and won two Rolex Series Events (the Dubai Desert Classic and Genesis Scottish Open) and had some other really high finishes in tournaments that give a lot of points. Look, it's really nice to have my name on the Harry Vardon Trophy for the fifth time and just be one behind Seve [Ballesteros] and still a few behind Monty [eight-time winner Colin Montgomerie]. But you're talking about the greats of the European game and to be up alongside them is really, really cool.”
McIlroy, who has also topped the FedEx Cup Rankings on a record three occasions, was asked where the DP World Tour Order of Merit stands for him these days. “I'd say I went through a period in my career where I didn't prioritise it, I guess,” he admitted. “I won my third one in 2015 and, if you look at 2016 through to 2021, I probably could have done more to try to prioritise it. The last couple of years, especially last year, I wanted to win both, the Race to Dubai and the FedExCup, and I guess post-2015 I prioritised America a little bit more.”
As he seeks to win this week’s Rolex Series event for a third time after title triumphs in 2012 and 2015, the Northern Irishman was asked to give himself a score out of ten for his season, which saw him finish second in the US Open and also make the top ten in both the PGA Championship and The Open. “Yeah, probably give it a seven out of ten,” he declared. “Played good golf. I had the two wins. I had my best-ever Ryder Cup, which feels like a win to me, especially coming off the back of Whistling Straits (where Europe suffered a record defeat and McIlroy felt he’d let his team-mates down). So I've been happy with the year.
“If I looked back on one thing, I'll rue that miss at LA (where he lost out to Wyndham Clark in the US Open). I had a great opportunity to pick up another major and I didn't. But I'm still not going to let that take away from the fact that it's been another really consistent, solid year. I'm feeling like my game is in as good of shape as its ever been throughout my, whatever it is, 16 or 17-year career. I'm happy with that, and try to finish this year off on a high and play well this week and reset and get ready for 2024.”
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