Rory McIlroy changes tune over punishment for returning LIV golfers

The world number two says the sport needs to work on ‘moving forward together’.

Rory McIlroy (AP)
Emirates Hero Dubai Desert Classic Golf Rory McIlroy (AP) (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Rory McIlroy says he has “changed my tune” on players facing punishment if they wish to return from the LIV Golf Series to the traditional tours.

The world number two has been one of the strongest advocates for the PGA and DP World Tours, but admits he has softened his stance on sanctions against players as the sport looks for a deal between the tours, Saudi’s Public Investment Fund – which backs LIV – and Fenway Sports Group.

“I think life is about choices,” said McIlroy ahead of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California. “Guys made choices to go and play LIV, guys made choices to stay here.

“If people still have eligibility on this tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try and do something, let them come back.

“I think it’s hard to punish people. I don’t think there should be a punishment.”

In June, after plans for a merger between the rival tours were announced, McIlroy said “the people that left the PGA Tour irreparably harmed this Tour” and “we can’t just welcome them back in”.

“Obviously I’ve changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA Tour and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties,” he said.

“It would be much better being together and moving forward together for the good of the game.

“That’s my opinion of it. The faster that we can all get back together and start to play and start to have the strongest fields possible, I think, is great for golf.”

Rory McIlroy spoke to Tyrrell Hatton before the Englishman’s move to LIV Golf was announced.
The Open 2023 – Preview – Wednesday 19th July – Royal Liverpool Rory McIlroy spoke to Tyrrell Hatton before the Englishman’s move to LIV Golf was announced. (David Davies/PA)

McIlroy, who served on the PGA Tour board before stepping down in November, was speaking in the wake of LIV naming England’s Tyrell Hatton as its latest recruit and said he had spoken to his Ryder Cup colleague before the announcement.

“I’ve talked to him quite a bit about it over the past month,” he said. “It got to the point where they negotiated and got to a place where he was comfortable with and he has to do what he feels is right for him.

“I’m not going to stand in anyone’s way from making money and what they deem life-changing money.”

McIlroy is making his seasonal PGA Tour debut at Pebble Beach this week, having started the year by finishing second to Tommy Fleetwood at the Dubai Invitational and winning the Dubai Desert Classic.

He will play more tournaments in the build-up to the US Masters this year, starting with a first appearance at Pebble Beach since 2019.

“You need to keep it fresh,” he said. “I don’t find that (keeping motivated) overly difficult.

“I think there’s always things that you want to achieve and that you can get better at.

“Trying to have a growth mindset to goal-set and try to achieve certain things is something that I’ve just learned to do as my career has progressed.”