MIAMI – Rory McIlroy admitted on Tuesday that the PGA Tour’s top golfers were reaping the benefits of the emergence of the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf circuit.
The Northern Irishman, one of the staunchest defenders of the PGA Tour in its bitter feud with LIV over the past year, said the upstart tour had forced the United States-based circuit to innovate.
He was speaking ahead of this week’s Players Championship, which will tee off on Thursday without its reigning champion Cameron Smith – who has defected to the lucrative LIV circuit.
The PGA Tour has responded to players jumping ship by introducing its own money-spinning no-cut events starting in 2024. McIlroy acknowledged that those changes would probably not have happened had it not been for LIV.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie, I think the emergence of LIV or the emergence of a competitor to the PGA Tour has benefited everyone that plays elite professional golf,” he said.
“This has caused a ton of innovation at the PGA Tour. What was quite, I would say, an antiquated system is being revamped to try to mirror where we’re at in the world in the 21st century with the media landscape.
“The PGA Tour isn’t just competing with LIV Golf or other sports. It’s competing with Instagram and TikTok and everything else that’s trying to take eyeballs away from the PGA Tour as a product. LIV coming along, it’s definitely had a massive impact on the game.”
McIlroy’s remarks were echoed by world No. 1 Jon Rahm.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “Without LIV Golf, this wouldn’t have happened.
“So to an extent, we should be thankful this threat has made the PGA Tour want to change things. I wish it didn’t come to the PGA Tour being under fire from somebody else to make those changes, but I guess it is what we needed.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, meanwhile, defended the introduction of no-cut events, noting that the tour had held similar-format tournaments in the past.
“The players that are competing in our events in this new format next year will have earned the right to compete in them and they will have earned it through top-50 position in the FedEx Cup this year,” he said.
“The PGA Tour has always had limited-field, no-cut 72-hole stroke-play events. In fact, Jack Nicklaus won 17 times in that format. Arnold Palmer won 23. Tiger Woods won 26.
“To me, those wins, the format, did not diminish those accomplishments. I think as we look out to 2024, 2025, 2026, the same will hold true.”
Meanwhile, ahead of its maiden event in Singapore in April, LIV Golf announced on Monday that Resorts World Sentosa will be the presenting partner and official hotel of the tournament.
The April 28-30 Singapore leg at the Sentosa Golf Club will be LIV’s fifth of the season and its first stop in Asia in 2023. AFP