Rory McIlroy, who has previously called for Greg Norman to step down as LIV Golf CEO, questioned his ability to lead the Saudi-backed series.
Talking Wednesday ahead of the DP World Tour’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy’s comment was in response to a question over recent movement toward the top of LIV’s org chart. Earlier this week, various outlets reported that Majed Al Sorour, LIV Golf managing director, had left the position and that it would not be filled, and that move followed the departure of LIV Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla and LIV’s President of Franchises, Matt Goodman.
In light of that shakeup, McIlroy then had this exchange with reporters.
“Can I just ask you for your reaction,” a reporter began. “It looks like there’s been sort of various bits of movement with LIV that has been portrayed as strengthening Greg Norman’s position in the top of that organization. We all know what you said when you were back here in November. So I just wonder if you have any reaction to that.”
“I mean, if the chief executive doesn’t have an executive team,” McIlroy said, “I don’t know how strong that is.”
“So if I could just follow up on that,” a reporter said, “do you see that as some kind of level of weakness?”
“Yeah,” McIlroy said.
“Because?” a reporter asked.
“I mean, he can’t do it himself,” McIlroy said. “He needs to rely on a team just like all of us rely on teams, right, to do things.
“You know, sort of operating in a silo, it starts to get pretty difficult.”
McIlroy’s comments come as the PGA Tour and LIV Golf continue a near year-long fight that has seen LIV offer guaranteed money to Tour players, the Tour create changes in response, the sides sue each other — and both McIlroy and Tiger Woods offer similar solutions. At the DP World Tour Championship in November, McIlroy was first.
“So I think there’s a few things that need to happen,” he said. “So there’s obviously two lawsuits going on at the minute — there’s PGA Tour versus LIV, and there’s this one that’s coming up with the DP World Tour in February. Nothing will happen if those two things are still going on, especially — yeah, you’re limited in what you can do.
“And then I think from whatever happens with those two things, there’s a few things that I would like to see on the LIV side that needs to happen. I think Greg needs to go. I think he just needs to exit stage left. He’s made his mark, but I think now is the right time to sort of say, look, you’ve got this thing off the ground, but no one is going to talk unless there’s an adult in the room that can actually try to mend fences.”
This past weekend, Norman responded. When asked on Fox News Channel’s One Nation with Brian Kilmeade about Woods’ call to step down, Norman said that the 15-time major winner was “a bit of a mouthpiece for the PGA Tour to try and get us to create, or get turmoil created internally within LIV.”
“But it’s not happening,” Norman said on the show. “We are fully entrenched. We know where we are going. We know what we’re doing.”
As for LIV Golf’s current leadership structure, under “LIV Leadership” on the the series’ website, Norman is listed as CEO, Ron Cross as chiefs events officer, Will Staeger as chief media officer, and Kerry Taylor as chief marketing officer. Most of LIV is owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and the governor of the PIF is Yasir Al-Rumayyan.
Also Wednesday, McIlroy addressed an incident on Monday on the Emirates Golf Club driving range, where a video showed Patrick Reed walk up to McIlroy and caddie Harry Diamond, McIlroy not look Reed’s way and Reed toss a tee in his direction. McIlroy said that on Christmas Eve, he had been served a subpoena by Reed’s lawyer, Larry Klayman, as part of Klayman’s lawsuit against the Tour.
McIlroy was also asked whether his play last year — which saw him win the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship and the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai, and rise to world No. 1 — was “in spite of or because of what was going on?”
“I would say a little bit of both,” he said. “I would say there parts of it were because of, and other parts just in spite of. I think I said a lot last year, and I wanted my actions to match my words.
“So there’s no point in just being a mouthpiece when you can’t back that up by playing good golf and showing people the rewards people can have out here if they are playing well. And it’s a merit-based system. That’s the thing that I’ve always struggled with: If a 5-year-old boy or girl know that they work hard and they shoot the scores, there’s a merit-based system in golf all the way through junior golf, amateur golf, all the way up to the professional level and they can make it to the top levels of the game.
“And this is the one thing that’s come into the game that has disrupted that, and you’re not certain; you’re not certain to play on that league or that tour. It’s not a merit-based system, where I think golf has always been that, and I’ve always appreciated that about our game.”