Rory McIlroy calls sudden PGA Tour governance change ‘concerning’

Rory McIlroy speaks to the media on Wednesday at the PGA Championship in Louisville, Ky.

Rory McIlroy speaks to the media on Wednesday at the PGA Championship in Louisville, Ky.

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These are uncertain times in pro golf, as the PGA Tour and Saudi Public Investment Fund are still deadlocked in determining the future of the professional game.

A pending merger was announced nearly a year ago, a deadline to finalize a deal passed in December and further negotiations still loom with little progress made public.

Another potential setback came Monday, when businessman Jimmy Dunne — a key dealmaker in the Framework Agreement last June — abruptly resigned from the PGA Tour Policy Board. Dunne cited a lack of progress on a board in which players now outnumber independent directors, and he called his vote and role “utterly superfluous.”

Dunne’s resignation — and the status of the merger — has been a big topic early this week at the PGA Championship.

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“Honestly I think it’s a huge loss for the PGA Tour if they are trying to get this deal done with the PIF and trying to unify the game,” said Rory McIlroy, speaking to the media on Wednesday at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. “Jimmy was basically the relationship, the sort of conduit between the PGA Tour and PIF. It’s been really unfortunate that he has not been involved for the last few months, and I think part of the reason that everything is stalling at the minute is because of that. So it’s really, really disappointing, and you know, I think the Tour is in a worse place because of it.”

McIlroy himself hasn’t been spared of any drama. He resigned from the Policy Board himself, in November — citing personal and professional commitments — but recently tried rejoining, to fill a spot held by Webb Simpson, who wanted McIlroy to take his spot. But that move didn’t follow Tour protocol and Simpson stayed in place.

“There was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason,” McIlroy said last week at the Wells Fargo Championship. “I think the best course of action is if there’s some people on there that aren’t comfortable with me coming back on, then I think Webb just stays on and sees out his term, and I think he’s gotten to a place where he’s comfortable with doing that and I just sort of keep doing what I’m doing. So yeah, I put my hand up to help and, I wouldn’t say it was rejected, it was a complicated process to get through to put me back on there.”

McIlroy is, however, on the newly formed PGA Tour Enterprises’ transactions subcommittee, which negotiates directly with the PIF. That subcommittee, which Tiger Woods is also on, was made public last week.

Yet the future of the pro golf landscape still seems uncertain. At the PGA, Jordan Spieth, who took McIlroy’s spot on the board in November, said “things are moving actually a lot better than what people think they are.”

Added Woods: “We’re making steps. That’s all I can say.”

McIlroy, however, wasn’t so sure.

“I would say my confidence level on something getting done before last week was as low as it had been,” McIlroy said. “Then with this news of Jimmy resigning and knowing the relationship he has with the other side, and how much warmth there is from the other side, it’s concerning.”

Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s managing editor, Berhow handles the day-to-day and long-term planning of one of the sport’s most-read news and service websites. He spends most of his days writing, editing, planning and wondering if he’ll ever break 80. Before joining GOLF.com in 2015, he worked at newspapers in Minnesota and Iowa. A graduate of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., he resides in the Twin Cities with his wife and two kids. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.