Golf

Something had to give: Rory McIlroy explains why he left PGA Tour’s policy board

Rory McIlroy admitted he was “rusty” after an opening 71 in the DP World Tour Championship (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Rory McIlroy admitted he was “rusty” after an opening 71 in the DP World Tour Championship (Kamran Jebreili/AP) Rory McIlroy admitted he was “rusty” after an opening 71 in the DP World Tour Championship (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Rory McIlroy felt like “something had to give” as he explained his surprise decision to resign from the PGA Tour’s policy board.

McIlroy cited professional and personal commitments for standing down as a player-director in a letter sent to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

The world number two has been LIV Golf’s most vocal critic and admitted he felt like a “sacrificial lamb” when a shock deal between LIV’s Saudi backers and the PGA Tour and DP World Tour was announced in June.

Speaking after an eventful opening 71 in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, McIlroy told Sky Sports: “I just think I’ve got a lot going on in my life between my golf game, my family and my growing investment portfolio, my involvement in TGL [an indoor golf league], and I just felt like something had to give.

“I just didn’t feel like I could commit the time and the energy into doing that. I don’t mind being busy, but I just like being busy doing my own stuff.

“Something had to give and there’s guys that are on that board that are spending a lot more time and a lot more energy on it than I am. It’s in good hands and I felt like it was the right time to step off.”

In a separate interview with a small number of reporters in Dubai, McIlroy admitted stepping down would give him more time to concentrate on ending his major drought, but refused to blame his off-course duties for going nine years without winning one of the game’s four biggest events.

“Over the last few weeks, not playing golf is one thing and I could pour more time and energy into it,” McIlroy said.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy studies his third shot on the 18th hole during round one of the DP World Tour Championship (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

“But I’m thinking as we go into next year and I’m getting ramped up for Augusta and all those tournaments I just couldn’t see me putting the time and energy into it. It’s a big decision and, if I’m not prepared going into those meetings, it’s better someone else takes my place.

“I don’t think my play was affected. I’ve played really well. I like being busy. I like having things to do away from the golf course. But I don’t think it affected me at all.

“I enjoyed it. It was an education. I was in the room with some very smart people. I was appreciative of the opportunity. Hopefully that will stand me in good stead with whatever I decide to do in the future.”

Competing for the first time since a career-best performance helped Europe regain the Ryder Cup in Rome, McIlroy carded five birdies and four bogeys in his 71, along with an extraordinary par on the 18th.

His drive on the 650-yard par five bounced off the rocks surrounding a creek which runs the length of the hole and landed in the chip bark off the fairway, from where he pulled his second shot into the creek, only to see it bounce out and on to a bridge.

“I was hoping that my tee shot was going to miss the hazard right but I didn’t exactly think that it would do what it did,” McIlroy, who conceded he was rusty, said.

“And the second shot from the mulch, it just sort of started left on me, and yeah got another stroke of luck by coming back over the bridge.

“I was a bit in two minds about whether to go left and cut it or go right. I felt with the longer club there was a chance of clipping the bridge on the way through. So I took a wedge and just tried to hit it as hard as I could and ended up making a good five.

“The up and down on 17 [from a bunker] and the par on 18 was actually a pretty nice way to end the day.”

Playing partner Jon Rahm was not so fortunate, the defending champion dropping shots on the 17th and 18th to finish level par, five shots off the lead shared by Ryder Cup team-mate Nicolai Hojgaard and the French pair of Julien Guerrier and Matthieu Pavon.

Hojgaard, who was level par at the turn before making five birdies in the next six holes, admitted he had been inspired by being part of Luke Donald’s victorious side in Rome.

“It was huge,” the 22-year-old said.

“Spending time with the best players in the world, fighting for a common goal was amazing, and just being around those guys, seeing what they do, what do I do different, what do I need to work on.

“It gave me a lot of confidence going into the last end of the season here. You want to play with those guys but you also want to beat them.”

Fellow Ryder Cup stars Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood, Robert MacIntyre and Tyrrell Hatton were part of an eight-strong group on three under par.