‘Let them come back’: Rory McIlroy says LIV defectors should be allowed to play PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm shake hands at the 2023 DP World Tour Championship

Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm embrace at the 2024 Dubai Desert Classic.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy made his first trip of the year to a PGA Tour media center on Tuesday, where he opened up on his desire to make peace in the LIV-PGA Tour feud and even argued players who left for LIV should be allowed to play in PGA Tour events without penalty.

After spending the last few weeks on the DP World Tour, where he won his fourth Dubai Desert Classic title, McIlroy is making his first PGA Tour start of the year at this week’s 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

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With so much news breaking in the PGA Tour-PIF-LIV arena between now and the last time he had a press conference in the U.S., reporters were eager to hear McIlroy’s thoughts.

From Jon Rahm’s ground-shaking departure from the PGA Tour to LIV, to Tyrrell Hatton’s LIV move, McIlroy offered a measure of support and understanding.

“I said to [Hatton] just like I said to Jon [Rahm], like I’m totally supportive of your decision if that’s what you feel is the right thing for you,” McIlroy said on Tuesday.

“I’ve come to the realization I’m not here to change people’s minds,” McIlroy continued. “I’m here to just try — especially when I was at the board level, trying to give them the full picture of where things are at and hopefully where things are going to go. They can do with that information what they want.”

One of the bigger open questions for the future landscape as negotiations over an official agreement continue is how to reintegrate LIV players into the PGA Tour.

As one of the players who lost the most financially by rejecting LIV and staying on the PGA Tour, McIlroy’s opinion on what if any penalties LIV players should face in the future carries a lot of weight.

But on that issue, too, McIlroy sounded more than willing to play peacemaker, arguing that LIV players should be allowed to return without punishment.

“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,” Mcilroy said.

“I mean, I think it’s hard to punish people. I don’t think there should be a punishment for — 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 continued. “It would be much better being together and moving forward together for the good of the game. That’s my opinion of it.”

“So to me, 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.”

One final question posed to McIlroy was whether he felt this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which is one of the PGA Tour’s Signature Events this year, was “cheapened” by the fact that top-tier LIV pros such as Rahm and Dustin Johnson weren’t in the field.

“Yeah, I’d like to win here and stand up with a trophy on 18 green and know that I’ve beaten all of the best players in the world, so yeah,” he replied.

As McIlroy and the rest of us await final decisions on the future of the game, there is still golf to be played. McIlroy gets his season started at 11:45 a.m. ET on Thursday on Spyglass Hill.

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