Rory McIlroy expressed disappointment that certain PGA Tour players took the “easy way out” and joined the rival LIV Golf Invitational Series, as well as the fact that six-time major champion Phil Mickelson assisted in the creation of the new circuit.
McIlroy said he gets why older players were enticed by millions of dollars in signing bonuses from LIV Golf, but he thinks younger players who defected made a stupid move.
“I understand. Yes, because a lot of these guys are in their late 40s.” McIlroy stated. “In Phil’s case, early 50s. Yeah, I think everyone in this room would say to themselves that their best days are behind them. That’s why I don’t understand for the guys that are a similar age to me going because I would like to believe that my best days are still ahead of me, and I think theirs are, too. So that’s where it feels like you’re taking the easy way out.”
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While McIlroy, 33, said he still respects Mickelson as a player, adding that at the 2021 PGA Championship on Kiawah Island, he became golf’s oldest major champion at the young age of 50, he didn’t like how Mickelson handled his departure to LIV Golf.
“He won a major championship 13 months ago, probably one of the crowning achievements of his career and one of the most impressive achievements in the history of the game of golf,” McIlroy added. “As a golfer, I have the utmost respect for Phil. I’ve been disappointed with how he went about what he has done, but I think he has come back and shown some remorse about how he has handled some things, so I think he has learned from that.”
Mickelson is competing in the US Open for the first time since having missed the cutoff at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January. The PGA Tour has suspended Mickelson and 16 other players who competed in LIV Golf’s debut event in London last week.
“Who am I to sit up here and give Phil a lesson on how to do things?” According to McIlroy. “He has had a wonderful career. He is his own man. He is a great addition to the field this week. Am I disappointed he has taken the route that he has taken? I am, but I still respect him tremendously.”
McIlroy was visibly dismayed that numerous players, notably Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Pat Perez, who had previously committed their allegiance to the PGA Tour, had switched up on their word. After many of golf’s best players stated they weren’t leaving the PGA Tour, McIlroy said LIV Golf appeared “dead in the water” at the Genesis in February.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who won the 2011 U.S. Open, stated, “I guess I took a lot of players’ statements at face value,” “I guess that’s what I got wrong. You had people committed to the PGA Tour, and that’s what the statements that were put out. People went back on that, so I guess I took them for face value. I took them at their word, and I was wrong.”
Mickelson and other players are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in signing bonuses from LIV Golf, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, according to McIlroy, who understands why families and friends of victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are furious.
Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
McIlroy replied, “Yeah, of course I do, “I think everything that’s happening with this [LIV Golf] tour, it legitimatizes their place in the world, and I’m sure not every Saudi Arabian is a bad person. We’re talking about this in such a generalized way. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and the vast majority of people that I’ve met there are very, very nice people, but there’s bad people everywhere. The bad people that came from that part of the world did some absolutely horrendous things.”
While McIlroy acknowledged that it is impossible to divorce sports from politics and “dirty money from clean money” in today’s society, he knows the anguish felt by 9/11 survivors and their families.
“It’s a very convoluted world right now,” McIlroy remarked. “I certainly empathize with those families, and I can’t imagine. I have friends that have lost people in 9/11, and it’s a really tragic thing. I empathize with those families, and I certainly understand their concerns and frustrations with it all.”
Former Ryder Cup teammates and close friends Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, and Graeme McDowell all participated in LIV Golf’s first tournament in London last week, but McIlroy stopped short of accusing them of sportswashing for the Saudis.
“I don’t think they’re complicit in it,” McIlroy added. “Look, they all have the choice to play where they want to play, and they’ve made their decision. My dad said to me a long time ago, ‘Once you make your bed, you lie in it,’ and they’ve made their bed. That’s their decision, and they have to live with that.”
McIlroy, for the time being, does not appear willing to join them.
“Because in my opinion it’s the right thing to do,” McIlroy stated. “The PGA Tour was created by people and tour players that came before us, the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. They created something and worked hard for something, and I hate to see all the players that came before us and all the hard work that they’ve put in just come out to be nothing.”
Original article posted on ESPN.com