Rory McIlroy Doesn’t Seem to “Hate” LIV Golf So Much Anymore

He didn't even rule out a jump to the PGA Tour's rival league in a recent press conference

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Brooks Koepka of the United States look on during a practice round prior to the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 04, 2023 in Augusta, Georgia.
Rory did offered up a few wry grins at a recent press conference in response to two tough questions.
Patrick Smith / Getty Images

At various points in 2023, Rory McIlroy said he “hated” LIV, the upstart Saudi Arabia-backed golf league, and that its poaching of players from the PGA Tour “pissed him off.” In 2024, however, perhaps the PGA’s staunchest supporter since the rival organization was founded is singing a slightly different tune.

McIlroy said last month that he’s “accepted the fact that [LIV] is part of our sport now.” That disposition manifested in a press conference the other day when he was asked about the possibility of a Masters championship asterisk, given the event’s reluctance to invite still-great LIV golfers into its clubhouse.

“Look, the Masters is an invitational and they’ll invite whoever they think warrants an invite,” he said. McIlroy then complimented the recent performances of LIV-er Joaquin Niemann, who has been asked to play in the Masters tournament. “I played with Joaquin down in Dubai a few weeks ago,” McIlroy said, “and he went down to Australia and won. He was in Oman last week. He’s been chasing his tail around the world to try to get this — either play his way into Augusta or show enough form to warrant an invite.”

This New Rory does align in a way with the Old Rory who said he was “pissed off” about LIV. The thing that angered him most about the league’s emergence was its fracturing of relationships among the players. McIlroy seems to literally want to play nice with the defectors, not judging them too harshly for taking loads of cash from dubious sources to compete in the game they love.

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What prompted these remarks? Per Golf Magazine, Talor Gooch, LIV Golf’s 2023 player of the year, expressed frustration over his presumed non-invite to the Masters in an interview with Australian Golf Digest. “The majors have kind of shown that they’re not getting on board with LIV,” he said. “Hopefully the day will turn when the majors decide to start rewarding good play on LIV.” He added that if McIlroy wins the Masters this year and completes a career grand slam, “there’s just going to be an asterisk” because some of the best players in the world won’t be competing against him.

McIlroy said in response that he is giving Gooch the benefit of the doubt “a little bit” because he feels the interviewer set Gooch up to deliver such a juicy quote. “He just agreed with what the interviewer asked,” McIlroy said.

But McIlroy also addressed some eyebrow-raising quotes from his former agent, Chubby Chandler, who said he believes McIlroy’s softening stance on LIV might mean he’d consider the previously unthinkable: his own move to LIV. “There’s a 10% possibility he’s favoring his way to sign for LIV,” Chandler said recently, “but he realizes that the whole bickering and fighting is no good for golf. The man in the street must find it appalling the sums of money being spoken.”

What did McIlroy have to say to that? “He might know a few things. Who knows?”

A reporter at the press conference then said, referring to Chandler, “Well, he started by saying there’s a good chance you’d go to LIV, and then at the end, it was 10%. So is there a percentage that—”

McIlroy said, “Somewhere in the middle maybe. Who knows.”

For all you gobsmacked golf fans reading this, don’t worry. He appears to have been joking, delivering wry grins in tandem with these quotes.

Still, to see McIlroy have this much fun over that kind of speculation, it points to an apparent truth Chandler told in his interview: “Rory is of the ilk that he’ll say something because he likes to have an opinion, but he’s quite happy to apologize for it and that’s what he’s done.”

We’ll see if McIlroy and other PGA Tour supporters continue to acquiesce as the supposed LIV-PGA merger comes to pass — possibly in the run up to the Masters.

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