Rory McIlroy Won't Replace Webb Simpson on the PGA Tour Policy Board

Simpson sought to let McIlroy take his place but McIlroy said some may have been "uncomfortable" with him coming back after leaving the board in December.
Rory McIlroy won't be returning to the PGA Tour Policy Board.
Rory McIlroy won't be returning to the PGA Tour Policy Board. / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rory McIlroy’s desire to get back on the PGA Tour Policy Board has been thwarted for various reasons, meaning Webb Simpson will serve out the rest of his term and a strong advocate for a deal with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia will have to make his voice heard from the outside.

McIlroy said Wednesday at Quail Hollow Golf Club that there are “no hard feelings” and that he understands the governance issues that are in play; Simpson had sought to simply have McIlroy—who left the board in December—take his place.

“I think it just ... it got pretty complicated and pretty messy and I think with the way it happened, I think it opened up some old wounds and scar tissue from things that have happened before,” McIlroy said after his pro-am round at the Wells Fargo Championship. “I think there was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason.

“I think that the best course of action is if there's some people on there that aren't comfortable with me coming back on, then I think Webb just stays on and sees out his term, and I think he's gotten to a place where he's comfortable with doing that and I just sort of keep doing what I'm doing.

“So yeah, I put my hand up to help and it was—I wouldn't say it was rejected, it was a complicated process to get through to put me back on there. So that's all fine, no hard feelings and we'll all move on.”

It’s no secret that board member Patrick Cantlay and McIlroy do not share some of the same beliefs and have had their differences. The other player directors on the board are Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Peter Malnati and Jordan Spieth, who replaced McIlroy late last year.

McIlroy has said on several occasions that he believes a deal with the PIF—which backs LIV Golf—is necessary and that he’s frustrated by the lack of movement.

It’s been nearly a year since the controversial “framework agreement” between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF was announced. The Tour has since made a deal with Strategic Sports Group for up to $3 billion in investment, with a complicated plan to give players equity.

But nothing has happened with the PIF as LIV continues to plan for the future with several prominent players.

And McIlroy went so far as to invoke the Good Friday Agreement—which greatly impacted political matters in his homeland of Northern Ireland—as an example of why getting to any sort of common ground is difficult.

“I think we've got this window of opportunity to get it done, because both sides from a business perspective I wouldn't say need to get it done, but it makes sense,’’ McIlroy said. “I sort of liken it to like when Northern Ireland went through the peace process in the '90s and the Good Friday Agreement, neither side was happy. Catholics weren't happy, Protestants weren't happy, but it brought peace and then you just sort of learn to live with whatever has been negotiated, right?

“That was in 1998 or whatever it was and 20, 25, 30 years ahead, my generation doesn't know any different. It's just this is what it's always been like and we've never known anything but peace. That's sort my little way of trying to think about it and trying to make both sides see that there could be a compromise here. Yeah, it's probably not going to feel great for either side, but if it's a place where the game of golf starts to thrive again and we can all get back together, then I think that's ultimately a really good thing.”

Simpson said Wednesday that he would remain for the duration of his three-year term but simply wanted more input from McIlroy. They’ve spoken several times and Simpson believed there was a way to get him back on the board—even if that won’t happen now.

“I think the sentiment was that Rory McIlroy being the global superstar he is and the strong voice in the game of golf, it’ll be great to get him more involved,” Simpson said. “All he has said to me is I just want to help if you guys want me to help. He has an important voice. I think he’s already made a positive impact this week.”

McIlroy said he is glad Simpson is remaining. “He has a really balanced voice in all this,” he said.

Asked what some of the holdups to a deal might be, McIlroy gave several examples.

“It could be if we go to a more global schedule, do the American players that are used to playing all their golf in American want to travel outside of the States 12 times a year to play tournament golf? That’s a consideration,” he said.

“If we all sort of come back together, I think from the LIV contingent there’s only seven players over there who have status, still have status or eligibility here. But would it be palatable to the rest of the membership if they come back—after seeing their contract out and they’ve financially got ahead by potentially hundreds of millions over the people who stayed. That’s a consideration.

“If you’re just thinking about the big picture and what’s good for the game of golf and what’s good for the Tom Kims of the world in 10 or 15 years’ time and they’re still playing professional golf, you want to set it up in a way where those younger guys have all the same opportunities if not more opportunities than we’ve had.

“So it’s not really about the here and. It’s a little bit, but it’s also about how does this thing look 10 15, 20 years down the line.”

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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.