‘First time I have felt betrayal’: Rory McIlroy opens up on LIV defections

Rory McIlroy at the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Rory McIlroy has been a vocal critic of the upstart LIV Golf league since the outset.

Steve Welsh/PA Images via Getty Images

Rory McIlroy, the newly minted World No. 1, rarely shies away from sharing his honest opinions about pro golf, even when they involve some of his closest friends in the game. But he’s also rarely anything other than fair and open-minded.

All of that was on display in a recent wide-ranging interview he participated in with Ewan Murray of The Guardian.

McIlroy has been a fixture within the PGA Tour-LIV Golf war this year, regularly voicing his strong support for the Tour and criticizing the upstart league. As a result, LIV Golf was the central topic of the discussion in his interview with The Guardian.

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Particularly interesting were his comments about several European-born LIV defectors that he has grown close with over the years while competing alongside them at the Ryder Cup, players like Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

McIlroy revealed that these players’ decisions to ditch the PGA and DP World Tours in favor of LIV was “the first time in my life that I have felt betrayal, in a way.”

The primary sticking point for McIlroy’s feelings revolves around the Ryder Cup, and the fact that these pros who he’s gone to battle with every two years, often with success, joined LIV knowing full well it meant they may never be involved in the Ryder Cup again.

“You build bonds with these people through Ryder Cups and other things. Them knowing that what they are about to do is going to jeopardize them from being a part of that ever again?” McIlroy asked. “There was a great opportunity for GMac to maybe be the captain at Adare in 2027 [the 2027 Ryder Cup at Adare Manor in Ireland]. Most of Sergio’s legacy is Ryder Cup-based, same with Poulter, Westwood.”

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McIlroy went on to explain that he felt those players “just left behind” the PGA Tour and Ryder Cup, which was responsible for building their legacies and brands.

“If people felt so aggrieved about some things,” McIlroy continued, “I’d rather be trying to make those changes from inside the walls than trying to go outside and be disruptive.”

We still don’t know whether or not exceptions will be made for LIV players to be allowed to compete in the Ryder Cup, though some PGA Tour players are for it. That includes Jon Rahm, who recently voiced his support for having LIV pros at the Ryder Cup, saying, “The Ryder Cup is not the PGA Tour and European Tour against LIV. It’s Europe versus the U.S., period.”

On Wednesday ahead of this week’s LIV event in Florida, Poulter was asked about McIlroy’s comments and the prospect of being banned from the Ryder Cup. He was having none of it and said that he didn’t think there was such a ban in place.

“A betrayal? We can still qualify for the team as far as I’m aware,” Poulter said. “Unless we’ve been told we can’t qualify, then I’m still ready to play as much as I possibly can and try and make that team.”

As for McIlroy, he openly acknowledged in the interview that the PGA Tour-LIV war has “gotten way out of control,” and hinted that a truce and compromise needs to happen eventually, as he has noted before.

All of this will have to be sorted out soon enough. The 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone in Rome is now just one year away.

Kevin Cunningham

Kevin Cunningham

Golf.com Editor

As managing producer for GOLF.com, Cunningham edits, writes and publishes stories on GOLF.com, and manages the brand’s e-newsletters, which reach more than 1.4 million subscribers each month. A former two-time intern, he also helps keep GOLF.com humming outside the news-breaking stories and service content provided by our reporters and writers, and works with the tech team in the development of new products and innovative ways to deliver an engaging site to our audience.

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