Rory McIlroy Reveals That He Has a Role in PGA Tour-PIF Negotiations After All

The four-time major champ isn't going back to the Tour Policy Board but he is part of the subcommittee with Tiger Woods that will try to hash out a deal directly with LIV Golf's backer.
Rory McIlroy will work with Tiger Woods and others on a subcommittee to try to unify the sport.
Rory McIlroy will work with Tiger Woods and others on a subcommittee to try to unify the sport. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In another twist to the ongoing saga of the PGA Tour/Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia negotiations, Rory McIlroy said Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship that he is part of a subcommittee including Tiger Woods and commissioner Jay Monahan that is tasked with working directly on a deal.

McIlroy, who Wednesday disclosed he would not be returning as a player-director to the PGA Tour Policy Board after there had been resistance among some current board members as well governance issues with him replacing Webb Simpson, disclosed this new role after the first round at Quail Hollow.

Called the “transaction subcommittee,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday that Woods would take part along with Monahan, player liaison Joe Ogilvie, Joe Gorder, a board member from Valero Energy, and John Henry from Strategic Sports Group.

Adam Scott is also part of the committee, bringing the total to seven, which the PGA Tour confirmed.

“I've already had calls with that group, I had a really good hour-and-a-half Zoom with those guys on Sunday, we went through a 150-page (document) about the future product model and everything,” McIlroy said after shooting 67 to tie for second, three shots behind tournament leader Xander Schauffele.

“I'm not on the board, but I'm in some way involved in that transaction committee. I don't have a vote so I don't—have I guess a meaningful say in what happens in the future, but at least I can feel like I can be helpful on that committee, and that was sort of a compromise for I guess not getting a board seat.”

McIlroy is the only person who is not part of the PGA Tour Enterprises Board of Directors but is likely in the enviable position of being exempt from mundane board duties while diving into the important work he’s concerned about regarding a deal with the PIF.

On Wednesday, McIlroy disclosed that he was willing to rejoin the board that he left in November after being asked by Simpson—who wanted to step down and have McIlroy take his place.

But unanimous board approval is required and McIlroy said there was resistance from some to his returning. Simpson subsequently said he will serve the remainder of his term.

Golf Digest later reported that it was board members Woods, Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth who were not in favor of McIlroy returning to the board. In a statement, Monahan said that “it’s simply a matter of adherence to our governance process by which a Tour player becomes a board member.”

But clearly there is some friction among players and their various views on what a deal with the PIF would look like.

Woods and McIlroy have been close for years and they seem to at least not share all of the same feelings as it relates to the possibility of golf unification.

“I think friends can have disagreements or not see things—I guess not—not see eye-to-eye on things but have disagreements on things,” McIlroy said. “I think that's fine. But no, I wouldn't say—we had a really good talk last Friday for 45 minutes just about a lot of different things. No, there's no strain there. I think we might see the future of golf a little bit differently, but I don't think that should place any strain on a relationship or on a friendship.”

McIlroy again tried to take the long view.

“I don't necessarily think or believe that people didn't want me involved, it was more just the process of how I could get involved again, right?” he said. “Like the board has went through this massive eight-month governance review, and what happened with Webb and I and that whole thing, that was outside of the scope of the governance, right? So then what's the process look like to try to bring me back in? That was really the sticking point with it all.

“So we tried to get to a compromise where, you know, I stuck my hand up and said, look, I can be helpful if this is what Webb wants to do. It was really tricky to do that, so I'm involved in the transaction committee and that's basically to try to get this deal done with PIF. I feel like I've got good relationships on both sides there and hopefully I can bring something to the table and try to provide some insight and value and see if we can get this thing done.”

 


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Bob Harig

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.