Rory McIlroy Doesn't See LIV Golf 'Slowing Down' But Meetings Continue to Try to Unify

The PGA Tour's transaction committee is meeting in person with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia on Friday, with McIlroy joining remotely for what he called "big boy stuff."
Rory McIlroy will join a meeting Friday remotely with LIV Golf's backer, as he's playing in the Memorial Tournament.
Rory McIlroy will join a meeting Friday remotely with LIV Golf's backer, as he's playing in the Memorial Tournament. / Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports

DUBLIN, Ohio — Rory McIlroy considered heading to New York following the second round of the Memorial Tournament on Friday but will instead take part via video conference in the first in-person meeting of the PGA Tour’s transaction committee and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

Saying that players Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and himself will be more in the background because “this is big boy stuff,” McIlroy said it is about the PIF—which backs LIV Golf—and a possible investment in PGA Tour Enterprises and what that could mean for the future of the men’s professional game.

And as part of that, McIlroy believes that LIV Golf will continue to operate, regardless of how a deal might look.

“I certainly don’t see in the next couple of years LIV slowing down,” McIlroy told a small group of reporters following an opening-round 70 at Muirfield Village Golf Club. “They’re buying office space in New York. They have over 200 employees. I don’t see a world where—and I haven’t heard any of those guys say that they don’t want to play over there either, right? You’ve got guys who are on contracts until 2028, 2029.

“Looking a few years down the line, LIV is going to continue to sort of keep going down its path. But hopefully with maybe more of a collaboration or an understanding between the tours. Maybe there is some cross-pollenation there where players can start to play on both. I guess that will all be talked about in the coming weeks.”

McIlroy along with Woods and Scott were named last month to a “transaction committee” that is to deal directly with the PIF as part of a plan to get investment in the new PGA Enterprises and bring peace to the game.

The others on the committee are PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan; former Tour player and board liaison Joe Ogilvie; Joe Gorder, who is an executive with Valero Energy and the chairman of PGA Tour Enterprises; and John Henry, a principal with Fenway Sports Group and part of the Strategic Sports Group, which earlier this year invested $1.5 billion in PGA Tour Enterprises.

The group is meeting in New York on Friday afternoon with the PIF, including its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan.

McIlroy said the transaction committee has met a few times amongst themselves and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with representatives of the PIF for the last few weeks.

It’s been a year since the “framework agreement” was announced, with no deal made and plenty of conjecture back and forth. The SSG commitment stalled talks with the PIF, but seemingly have resumed with plenty of ground to cover.

“There’s going to be people in that room on the PGA Tour side who are going to take the lead,” McIlroy said. “And it’s not going to be Adam, Tiger or I. That’s going to be Jay, Joe Gorder, Joe Ogilvie, John Henry. It’s going to be the business guys. We’re there to maybe give a perspective from a player’s point of view.

“This is a negotiation about an investment in the PGA Tour Enterprises, this is big boy stuff. And I’ll certainly be doing more listening than I will be doing talking.”

McIlroy said it is unknown at this point what PIF’s role might be going forward.

“I think depending on what the DOJ (the U.S. Department of Justice) allows, it might have to be a very passive investment,” McIlroy said. “I don’t know what’s in their head. I don’t know if that is something that they are willing to do. We’ll find out.”

McIlroy added: “There’s a lot of stuff that goes beyond my knowledge and expertise in terms of the investment side of things. And certainly the regulatory side of things as well. We’re on this transaction committee to sort of give a perspective from a player. But that’s going to be a conversation between SSG and the executives of the Tour.”

Asked if he believes the PIF—which was attempting to get into golf long before LIV Golf was launched—is looking at PGA Tour Enterprises as something aside from its LIV investment, McIlroy said:

“First and foremost, Yasir is the governor of the PIF and the chairman of Aramco (Saudi Arabia’s lucrative oil company). Those are the two titles that he holds. His biggest thing is making returns on his investments and to do good by the Kingdom. That’s his whole purpose in what he is doing. If he thinks that investing in PGA Tour Enterprises is a good investment and he can make return on his money and also get a seat at the table, as it were, he may see that as a win.”

McIlroy noted that collaboration going forward is tricky. The DOJ rejected original language in the framework agreement which said LIV Golf could not poach players from the PGA Tour. “It was anti-competitive; antitrust,” McIlroy said.

That, and so many other things, make for a complicated situation, he said.

“My stance on some of the LIV stuff has softened,” McIlroy said. “They’re contracted to play 14 events, but the other 38 weeks of the year you’re free to do what you want.

“The only thing is there are so many tours and so many golf tournaments.  There are only a certain amount of weeks in the year. That’s the complicated part. Trying to figure out which tournaments go where, when do we play them, how many players, what players.”

This is the first time that Al-Rumayyan is meeting with any of the players such as Woods and Scott since he joined them and the PGA Tour Policy Board meeting in the Bahamas in March.

Bob Harig


Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated. He has more than 25 years experience covering golf, including 15 at ESPN. Bob is a regular guest on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio and has written two books, DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods and Tiger and Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry. He graduated from Indiana University where he earned an Evans Scholarship, named in honor of the great amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans Jr. Bob, a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America, lives in Clearwater, Florida.