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Jun 9th, 2023

Players Break Silence on PGA Tour and LIV Merger

The latest on the biggest story in golf

Rory McIlroy Speaking at the RBC Canadian Open

Following on from Tuesday's seismic announcement that the two feuding golf tours were going put aside their differences, and merge into a yet-to-be-named, solo golf entity, we look back on the news and stories that have surfaced since.

Whilst the jury is out on exactly what this means for golf in the short, medium, and long term, many players seem to have begrudgingly come to the same conclusion, that unifying the game of golf since its split 18 months ago, is a move in the right direction for the sport.

Speaking at the RBC Canadian Open, McIlroy, a virulent critic of LIV Golf, said he knew of discussions taking place, but was surprised by how quickly the situation developed and was given no heads up over the news a deal had been reached.

“I learned about it pretty much at the same time everyone else did," he said, but added: “Yeah it was a surprise but I knew there had been discussion going on. I knew lines of communications were open.”
He continued: "When I look at the bigger picture and I look ten years down the line, I think this will be good for the game of golf."

Despite his comments, he still isn't pulling his punches when it comes to the (former) rival entity and his dislike for everything LIV Golf represents. Speaking in the same interview, he doubles down on his hatred for LIV golf and lays bare that his only intentions have ever been to protect the PGA Tour and what it represents.

Across the PGA Tour, there have been reports of major discontent with the current Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, with players calling for him to resign in a heated players meeting prior to the first day of the Canadian Open. 
Several high-profile players left the American PGA Tour and European-based DP World Tour to join the $2bn (£1.6bn) Saudi-backed LIV circuit when it launched last year.
Monahan said at the time that those who joined LIV would not be welcome back on the PGA Tour.

McIlroy, the defending champion at this week's PGA Tour event at the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto, was at Tuesday's 75-minute players meeting.
There are reports that he was involved in an angry exchange during the meeting, telling world number 227 Grayson Murray to "just play better" as the American criticised Monahan. 

Murray reportedly swore at McIlroy but another player, Wesley Bryan, later confirmed the exchange on social media, adding they "were cordial and pleasant post meeting".
American golfer Johnson Wagner, a PGA Tour winner, told the Golf Channel: "There were many moments where certain players were calling for new leadership of the PGA Tour and even got a couple of standing ovations.

"I think the most powerful moment was when a player quoted Monahan from the 3M in Minnesota last year when he said, 'as long as I'm commissioner of the PGA Tour, no player that took LIV money will ever play the PGA Tour again'. It just seems like a lot of backtracking.
"Players were mad, players were calling for [his] resignation, and Jay sat there and took it like a champ, he really did."
"I recognise that people are going to call me a hypocrite. Any time I've said anything I've said it with the information I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that's trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players," said Monahan.

Understandably so, given his comments regarding the launch of the LIV Tour and his prologue almost exactly a year ago today on the 9/11 victims families, and how Saudi involvement with golf would have certain implications.
If the interview wasn't hard enough to watch at the time, a second viewing post-merger really consolidates the hypocrisy of the current Commissioner and the flippant nature of his comments at the time.
Monahan has since announced that those players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour will be rewarded, though this statement has yet to be clarified in any capacity, and has left a lot of PGA tour players asking questions of financial compensation in the wake of the merger news.

One of those players was Chesson Hadley, who according to reports was never offered a LIV Golf spot on tour, though is now asking for some form of compensation from the PGA for his loyalty. Hadley is not alone in his demands for compensation. 

McIlroy has also shared his disappointment with how the faithful PGA Tour players have been shown no reward for doing what he felt was morally correct and to the benefit of the PGA.
He said: “It was a massive decision to do what they did, I feel for the right reasons. “I feel for those guys who had that decision to make and are probably somewhat questioning that decision they made now.”

Probably to McIlroy's dissatisfaction, Monahan said all golfers who joined LIV will be able to reapply for PGA Tour membership in 2024, after the conclusion of the 2023 season.

"Ultimately everything needs to be considered. Ultimately what you're talking about is an equalisation over time and I think that's a fair and reasonable concept."

Jack Nicklaus weighed in on the debate again for the second time in as many weeks, though this time with perhaps a slightly different lense. 

Prior to last weeks memorial tournament, Nicklaus was quoted as saying, “I don’t even consider those guys part of the game anymore. I don’t mean that in a nasty way. This is a PGA Tour event, and we have the best field we can possibly have for a PGA Tour event for those who are eligible to be here. The other guys made a choice of what they did and where they’ve gone and we don’t even talk about it.”

Though not only a week later, Nicklaus said; "The last three years have been difficult for the game and the players. I spoke with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan this morning. He seemed pleased with the arrangement that will once again bring together the best players in the world. I agree that this is good for the game of golf.
"I also appreciate the commissioner’s comments about continuing the tradition of the Tour and the mission to support important charitable causes. I am certainly interested in seeing the details. Jay indicated that this all will happen in 2024, so very soon the proof will be in the pudding. Whatever is best for the game of golf enjoys my full support."

Some reactions from the Twitterphere

TAGS: News, PGA Tour, LIV Golf, DP World Tour, 2023, Rory McIroy