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Rory McIlroy rejects Premier Golf League concept: ‘I’m out’

February 19, 2020
Rory McIlroy made it clear that he's out on the proposed Premier Golf League.

Rory McIlroy has earned his fair share of wins on the PGA Tour. But on Wednesday, McIlroy had the rare opportunity to deliver a win back in the Tour’s direction.

The concept of a big-money “Premier Golf League” gained momentum in recent months, but its success was always likely to hinge on signing on golf’s top names. After Tiger Woods, getting World No. 1 Rory McIlroy on board had to have been top priority — but it doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen.

Taking questions in advance of this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, McIlroy said he’s given plenty more thought to the idea of the new super-tour.

“The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it,” he said. “The one thing as a professional golfer in my position that I value is the fact that I have autonomy and freedom over everything that I do.”

In January, Geoff Shackelford reported that the proposed tour would consist of an 18-event, 48-player circuit that would offer $10 million purses per tournament. The league would reportedly follow a Formula 1-based team model, including four 12-player teams simultaneously competing against one another weekly and together toward a larger, end-of-season prize money pool. But the concept would require buy-in from each player.

McIlroy cited players’ decisions not to come to Mexico as one such example that wouldn’t fly on the new Tour.

“If you go and play this other golf league, you’re not going to have that choice,” McIlroy said. “You basically — I read a thing the other day where it said, ‘If you take the money they can tell you what to do, so if you don’t take the money they can’t tell you what to do,’ and I think that’s my thing.

“So for me, I’m out. My position is that I’m against it; there may come a day that I can’t be against it, if everyone else goes I might not have a choice. But at this point, I don’t like what they’re proposing.”

In doing so, McIlroy became the first big voice to speak out against the new Tour, but he suggested he’s not the only one with mixed feelings, suggesting player opinion is split on the idea.

Last week, Woods said he was open to the idea. “There’s a lot of information that we’re still looking at and whether it’s reality or not, but just like everybody else, we’re looking into it.” But McIlroy isn’t convinced that he’s serious.

“Tiger’s 44, he’s got two young kids, he’s openly said last week he wants to play 12 times a year, so this league’s proposing 18, so he’s not going to do it,” he said.

There’s also a faction of players interested by the idea, though. When it comes to picking sides, he suggested that things might get awkward.

“Yeah, I could see that,” he said, then paused. “As I said, right now people are purely looking at it from a monetary standpoint and I think there’s some others that are looking at it more from a…I would like to be on the right side of history, with this one, just as Arnold Palmer was with Greg Norman [and his proposed world tour] in the 90s.”

Time will tell where other stars stand. But Shackelford also reported that an informational meeting was held Tuesday at Riviera, with notable attendees including Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed. Several of those seven played in this year’s Saudi International, which has some financial backers in common with the proposed world tour.

In the end, McIlroy sounded like he’s assessed his priorities. “Money’s cheap. Money’s the easy part. That’s not the — it shouldn’t be the driving factor. For some people it is, and look, we’re professional golfers and we’re out here playing golf to make a living, but at the end of the day I value my freedom and my autonomy over everything else.”

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