In the months since the creation of the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, men’s golf has split into two rival camps – those that are part of LIV Golf and those that are still part of the PGA Tour. .
“What this has done to the world of men’s professional golf has torn it apart, which is unfortunate,” four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy told CNN Sport’s Patrick Snell after his extraordinary Tour Championship win on Sunday.
“I think there are ways to fix that and bring it back together. But with everything going on right now, I don’t think that will happen in the future.
Ahead of the BMW Championship two weeks ago, McIlroy took part in a meeting of top PGA players to discuss the threat of the separatist LIV Golf series which is being funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the man a US intelligence report named as responsible for approving the operation that led to the 2018 killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Bin Salman has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.
“Being in the middle of things has been tough at times and it’s probably taken time for the two most important things to me, which is family and golf,” McIlroy admitted of his role as a non-spokesman. Official PGA Tour Players.
“But there are certain times when things just have to be done and you have to step up to stand up for what you believe in. And I feel like that’s what I’ve done this year and I I will continue to do so, but at the same time always try to be the best player in the world.
“So I’m wearing a lot of different hats right now, but I feel like I’m able to handle everything pretty well right now.”
Many high profile players left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf – including big winners Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka – lured by a total prize pool of $250 million and an attempt to reform the PGA Tour.
They have been criticized by other players for abandoning golf traditions and accepting money from a country that has been widely condemned by human rights groups.
In response to the existential threat from LIV Golf, the PGA Tour suspended anyone who joined the breakaway series.
On the DP World Tour – formerly the European Tour – however, the initial fine and suspension for three events handed out to players at LIV Golf has been temporarily blocked by a UK referee, and thus at next month’s BMW PGA Championship, McIlroy will face players. which are now part of LIV Golf.
“It’s hard for me to put up with the fact that I’m going to play one event and 18 of these guys are going to be playing in the same field,” McIlroy said.
“I don’t like it, it’s not something I really want to be a part of, but for me, just as committed as I am to the PGA Tour, I also want to be committed to the DP World Tour. ”
The eligibility of European LIV Golf players to participate in the Ryder Cup is still the subject of legal disputes while American LIV Golf players are unlikely to participate as they cannot accumulate the required PGA Tour qualifying points. from which they are suspended.
Since LIV Golf players can currently participate in the DP World Tour, they can accumulate the qualifying points needed to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup, a factor also encouraging McIlroy to participate in these upcoming European events.
When asked if LIV golfers should be allowed to compete in the Ryder Cup, McIlroy told CNN: “No, if I had what it takes, no.
“I want to support [Luke Donald] as captain. And so, I try to do things for the right reasons and these 18 guys over there have done things that I don’t agree with. And it’s a shame to come to this. »