Rory McIlroy, a strong supporter of the PGA Tour in its battle against LIV Golf, said Wednesday he was happy to see the three players seeking an injunction denied their request to play in this week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who enters the FedEx Cup playoffs sixth in the points standings, said “common sense prevailed.’’
In a news conference following his pro-am round at TPC Southwind, McIlroy said that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones being permitted to play in the first of three FedEx Cup playoff events would have meant a big distraction.
“I thought it was the right decision,’’ he said. “Let’s focus on the important stuff, which is the golf. We can all move forward and not have that sideshow going on for the next few weeks, which is nice.’’
The three players were part of a group of 11 LIV Golf competitors who filed an antitrust lawsuit last week against the PGA Tour, seeking a reduction or removal of their indefinite suspensions imposed for participating in LIV events. Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau are part of the suit, which is not expected to be heard until next year.
But Gooch, Swafford and Jones sought a temporary restraining order which would have allowed them to compete this week. Despite not playing a PGA Tour event since early June, all three players had comfortably qualified for the playoffs based on their previous results.
“It was personal to me from the beginning, but I just—I would say it's just getting more and more in-depth," said Justin Thomas Wednesday in a press conference. "It's kind of like I said from the start, those guys were given an opportunity to go play and just go play. You can have your cake, but you don't need to eat it, too. And they got their fair share of a large, large amount of cake, and go eat it on your own means. You don't need to bring it onto our tour.
"I think we keep it how it is and we can continue to build an unbelievable product that's given a lot of us like myself a great platform to just keep improving it.’’
The top 125 in the final FedEx Cup standings are eligible to compete in this week’s event that has a $15 million purse and will see the top 70 in points advance to next week’s BMW Championship. The top 30 from there move to the Tour Championship with a chance to compete for the FedEx Cup, where the winner receives an $18 million bonus.
McIlroy, who hit all 18 greens in regulation during the final round of the British Open at St. Andrews but finished two strokes behind winner Cam Smith, said he took two weeks off following the tournament and did not get back into golf last week.
He couldn’t help but notice the news of the lawsuit and the names of the players who were suiting the PGA Tour.
“The thing that I would say, I certainly have a little more respect for the guys that haven't put their names to the suit,’’ he said. “I mean, it's become a little more personal because of that.’’
McIlroy said he followed the proceedings that took place in a Northern California courtroom Tuesday.
“Guys are going to make their own decisions that they feel is best for them and that's totally fine,’’ he said. “Again, I don't begrudge anyone for going over to play LIV or taking guaranteed money. If that's your prerogative and what you want to do, totally fine.
“I think where the resentment comes from the membership of this Tour is the fact that they want to try to get their way back in here with no consequences, and anyone that's read the PGA Tour handbook or abided by the rules and regulations, that would feel very unfair to them.
“That's sort of how it played out and I think everyone that has abided by the rules was—again, it's like there's such a long way to go. It's like you birdied the first hole, but you've still got 17 holes to go. It was a good day for the Tour and for the majority of the membership yesterday.’’
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