Even by Rory McIlroy’s notoriously transparent standards, Tuesday’s press conference at the DP World Tour Championship qualified as an outlier.
There were so many ways for McIlroy to answer the question. What do golf’s warring tours — the PGA Tour and LIV — need to find peace? He could have answered diplomatically about charting a path forward. He could have bandied about optimistically about the future of the game and golf’s youngest crop of talent. He could have carried the company line on the importance of unity and the scourge of greed. But the four-time major champ didn’t do that.
No, instead, he went for the head.
“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. You’re limited in what you can do.”
And who can stop LIV’s ongoing litigation against the PGA Tour? Funny you should ask.
“I think Greg [Norman] needs to go. I think he just needs to exit stage left,” McIlroy said. “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.”
Exit stage left.
Even for McIlroy, who has long been one of Norman and LIV’s most vocal critics, the comments mark a stunning rebuke. His criticism of Norman speaks to the rift the LIV CEO has formed with the rest of professional golf, and to animus stoked by Norman on both sides of the LIV Golf debate.
“If those two things happen, then things can happen,” he said. “But right now, it’s a stalemate because there can’t be any other way.”
Norman, for his part, has seen his stay atop golf’s Saudi-backed tour fall into uncertainty in recent weeks. Reports have suggested LIV’s top backer, Saudi Golf Federation head Yasir Al-Ramayyan, is considering other options to lead the tour, including former TaylorMade CEO Mark King. (LIV has denied these reports.)
The former major champ and current face of LIV has been motivated by what some have called a “personal vendetta” against the PGA Tour stemming back to his playing days. Norman’s mocking of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan in LIV’s earliest days — and LIV’s subsequent lawsuits against the Tour — only further entrenched the divide.
Norman’s tone has softened some recently. He has taken time in several of his recent press conferences to lobby for peace in the world of pro golf, stressing that LIV doesn’t wish to destroy the PGA Tour.
“We are here for the game of golf,” he said Monday. “We are here for the betterment of the game of golf. We’re the force for good in the game of golf. “
But his words only travel so far without a shift in his tour’s outwardly hostile approach — a shift that would be welcomed by many of his tour’s own players.
“Hopefully something can happen, who knows?” McIlroy echoed. “But right now, I think the separate entities the PGA Tour, European Tour and LIV are both going to be — one is a very different product to the other. It seems like it’s a bit of a stalemate.”
There are many paths forward for the future of professional golf. For Rory McIlroy and undoubtedly many others on the PGA Tour side, though, there is only one path to peace.
Here’s a hint: it doesn’t involve Greg Norman.