Rory McIlroy: ‘LIV has benefited everyone that plays elite professional golf’

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy on Tuesday during his press conference ahead of the Players Championship.

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Rory McIlroy said he wasn’t going to lie. Jon Rahm had his answer as soon as the question was asked. 

The biggest reason for the PGA Tour’s changes?

LIV Golf, they said. 

“I’m not going to sit here and lie; I think the emergence of LIV or the emergence of a competitor to the PGA Tour has benefited everyone that plays elite professional golf,” McIlroy said Tuesday during his press conference ahead of this week’s Players Championship

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“I think when you’ve been the biggest golf league in the biggest market in the world for the last 60 years, there’s not a lot of incentive to innovate. This has caused a ton of innovation at the PGA Tour, and what was quite, I would say, an antiquated system is being revamped to try to mirror where we’re at in the world in the 21st century with the media landscape and just every — you know, the PGA Tour isn’t just competing with LIV Golf or other sports. It’s competing with Instagram and TikTok and everything else that’s trying to take eyeballs away from the PGA Tour as a product.

“So, yeah, you know, LIV coming along, it’s definitely had a massive impact on the game, but I think everyone who’s a professional golfer is going to benefit from it going forward.”

McIlroy’s and Rahm’s comments come after a series of changes the Tour has made over the past year as part of its fight with LIV, the Saudi-backed series that has attracted several pros and is now in its second season. Among the more recent changes, announced just last week, the Tour will play eight designated events next year without a cut, and only 50 players — the top 50 from the prior year’s year-long standings — will be guaranteed spots in those events. 

Echoing McIlroy, Rahm said he knew the impetus. 

“Oh, it’s LIV Golf,” said Rahm, who followed McIlroy on Tuesday in pre-Players press conferences.  

“I mean, without a doubt. Without LIV Golf, this wouldn’t have happened. So to an extent, like I’ve said before, we should be thankful this threat has made the PGA Tour want to change things. I think I said it last week, as well; I wish it didn’t come to the PGA Tour being, you know, under fire from somebody else to make those changes and make things better for the players, but I guess it is what we needed. So, yeah, it is because of LIV Golf. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have seen any of this.”

The answers were sincere. But were the comments surprising? Perhaps. The nod to a competitor as the reason for change is at least somewhat unexpected; you don’t see McDonald’s and Burger King tossing bouquets to each other.   

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To that end, when asked why it took for the arrival of LIV to change, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said his league’s recent moves had been coming. At no point in his hour-long press conference did he mention LIV by name, though at one point referenced “that Tour.”

After a lengthy answer describing pre- and post-LIV moves the Tour has made and noting the Tour’s recent media rights deal, Monahan said players and fans spurred the changes.  

“When you think about how the resources have been allocated,” Monahan said, “that comes from the great loyal membership that we have on the PGA Tour, their incredible talents, their commitment to the model, to the meritocracy of the PGA Tour and the game, to the corporate partners that we have that support all of our tournaments, to the communities where we make such a huge impact, to our fans who want to see more of our — all these things really come as a result of the business having these changes that we could reinvest in our product.

“So to me, the credit goes to all of our players out here and also goes to our fans. We’ve listened to our fans, and we’ve responded and we’re returning to our fans what they have told us that they wanted. 

“So that’s really how we got to the amount of change that we’ve had over the last five or six years.”

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