‘Common sense’: Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas speak out after LIV court decision

justin thomas rory mcilroy at press conference

Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas spoke with reporters Wednesday about the court decision barring three LIV players from the FedEx Cup playoffs.

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As it turns out, you weren’t the only one pilfering through Twitter for insight on the court’s first decision between in the momentous case between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. As you dug through the comments and retweets in the hopes of gleaning some insight, so did Justin Thomas.

“I wasn’t following it that close. Not only being a golfer, but being a college dropout of two years, my knowledge when it comes to stuff about legality is pretty low,” Thomas told reporters with a laugh on Wednesday at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. “I figured I could probably just check Twitter later in the day and I could figure it out or someone could give me a good synopsis.”

Whenever Thomas logged in on Tuesday, he found good news for his home tour. In the court’s first ruling, Judge Beth Labson Freeman rejected Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford’s application for a temporary restraining order, effectively banning the three LIV players from the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

In terms of the overall case — Mickelson et. al vs. the PGA Tour — the decision was only a small victory for Thomas’ home team. But for those who compete on the Tour, it reverberated much more strongly. In the eyes of the players, Judge Freeman’s decision was a successful defense of the Tour’s home turf, and more importantly, a reaffirmation that those who choose to leave for LIV’s greener pastures won’t have the freedom to come back whenever they so choose.

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“From my vantage point, common sense prevailed,” said Rory McIlroy. “I thought it was the right decision, and now that that has happened, I think it just lets us focus on the important stuff, which is the golf, and we can all move forward and not have that sideshow going on for the next few weeks, which is nice.”

“I wasn’t super one way or the other, I just was worried about myself. Obviously as a player on the PGA Tour and the ruling going in favor of the PGA Tour, I’m in favor of that,” Thomas agreed. “But again, I let that deal with that and I just try to worry about playing golf.”

There was a palpable sense of relief in the court’s decision from Thomas and McIlroy on Wednesday. Both men have spoken about the fatigue caused by LIV’s never-ending news cycle, and if the court’s decision represented anything, it was an opportunity to escape from the “sideshow” for at least a few weeks.

“I think where the resentment comes from from the membership of this Tour is the fact that they want to try to get their way back in here with no consequences, and anyone that’s read the PGA Tour handbook or abided by the rules and regulations, that would feel very unfair to them,” McIlroy said. “That’s sort of, you know, how it played out.”

Of course, the court’s decision won’t be the last in the legal battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf — the feud between the two organizations will extend out at least until the club’s September 2023 court date, and very likely much further. But it was an important moment for the Tour’s constituents, who have witnessed their fair share of public losses over the last two months — and who faced potential embarrassment in the TRO ruling.

“The thing that I would say, I certainly have a little more respect for the guys that haven’t put their names to the suit,” McIlroy said. “So yeah, I mean, it’s become a little more personal because of that.”

It’s early yet, but make no mistake about it, there was reason for relief in Memphis on Wednesday.

“There’s such a long way to go,” McIlroy said. “It’s like you birdied the first hole, but you’ve still got 17 holes to go.”

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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