Rory McIlroy said he believes the time might be near for the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to speak because the “game is ripping itself apart.’’
McIlroy, who has been highly critical of the Saudi-backed LIV Invitational Series and has worked behind the scenes with Tiger Woods to help the PGA Tour come up with a more robust and lucrative plan starting in 2023, said Wednesday in St. Andrews, Scotland, that “the ball is in their court.’’
Ranked second in the world, McIlroy acknowledged there is difficulty moving forward due to two related lawsuits, one in which several LIV players have taken action against the PGA Tour on antitrust grounds. Another legal issue has allowed LIV players who are members of the DP World Tour to compete on that circuit until a resolution is expected in February.
But McIlroy, 33, said he believes LIV Golf participants deserve to get world ranking points and he is not opposed to them competing in major championships but that LIV Golf is “making up their own rules.’’
Two weeks ago, a group of 50 LIV players sent a letter to Peter Dawson, the chairman of the Official World Golf Ranking, seeking the group to quickly consider its application for world ranking points, saying “every week that passes without the inclusion of LIV athletes undermines the historical value of OWGR.’’
The OWGR does not comment on the process, although an application can take months if not at least a year to be approved.
“If Dustin Johnson is somehow 100th in the world it’s not an accurate reflection of where he is in the game,’’ McIlroy told reporters at the Dunhill Links Championship, a DP World Tour event which takes place this week across three courses in Scotland—the Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
“But at the same time, you can’t make up your own rules. There’s criteria there, everyone knows what they are and if they want to pivot to meet the criteria they can. I’ve not a problem with them getting ranking points at all but you have to meet the criteria. If you don’t it’s harder to justify why you should have them.’’
LIV Golf has acknowledged it does not check all of the boxes in the OWGR criteria, of which there are 14. Part of the OWGR’s mandate, however, also says that an organization can be granted points without meeting the criteria—or that it can be denied even if it does.
The biggest shortcomings for LIV appear to be the lack of a 36-hole cut in its 54-hole events, the small fields of only 48 players and an unclear qualifying path to LIV events. Next year, the LIV Golf League will have 48 players consisting of 12 four-man teams, almost all of them chosen.
There are plans for a “Promotions event’’ next year, but there is no transparent weekly qualifying system. LIV Golf is underwriting the International Series, a group of 10 elevated events on the Asian Tour, that will serve as a mini feeder tour and has given LIV the ability to say it is part of a tour with full field 72-hole events.
"I've always said there's a time and place where everyone involved needs to sit down and work together,’’ McIlroy said. “It's very hard to do that right now with court cases going on. There's a natural timeline to let things settle down a little bit. People can go into those meetings with a cooler head.’’
At the Tour Championship last month, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suggested that he was not interested in any discussions with LIV Golf and that a pathway back to the Tour for LIV golfers was not likely at this time.
“As it relates to any of the scenarios for LIV players, and coming back, I’ll remind you that we are in a lawsuit,’’ Monahan said. “They’ve suited us. I think talking about any hypotheticals at this point doesn’t make a lot of sense.’’
The emergence of LIV Golf has made for an disruptive year. Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson took a four-month break due to issues related to his anti-PGA Tour comments in February, and then signed with LIV for a huge guarantee to play over the next several years.
Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia are among several other players who have signed multi-year deals with LIV.
Its eight-tournament 2022 schedule continues next week with an event in Bangkok. On Tuesday, LIV Golf announced plans to restructure its season-ending team event at Doral, Oct. 28-30, in part to clear the way for a broadcast partner to televise the event with the intention of a long-term deal.
“I don't want a fractured game, McIlroy said. "The game of golf is ripping itself apart and that's no good for anyone. It's not good for the guys on the traditional system or the guys on the other side either.
"Right now, with where everything is, it's probably not the right time but we probably can't leave it too much longer. I'm all for getting around the table and sorting things out.’’