Rory McIlroy’s sudden PGA Tour board resignation raises questions
Rory McIlroy faced the press on Tuesday in Dubai, taking questions ahead of the DP World Tour’s Tour Championship. One query proved particularly prescient.
Are you enjoying having a seat at that particular table?
The table in question was the PGA Tour’s policy board. And McIlroy’s answer was blunt.
“Not particularly, no,” he said. “Not what I signed for whenever I went on the board. But, yeah, the game of professional golf has been in flux for the last two years.”
Those comments teased at news that would come out later Tuesday evening in the form of an email from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan: McIlroy had resigned from his position.
The email, first posted by Monday Q Info on Twitter, said that McIlroy had sent a resignation letter to the rest of the board on Tuesday afternoon, calling it a “difficult decision” made “due to professional and personal commitments.”
Monahan went on to thank McIlroy for serving on the Player Advisory Council, which he did from 2019 through 2021 before serving as Player Director on the Policy board in 2022 and 2023. His term was supposed to expire at the end of 2024.
Since coming on at the beginning of 2022, McIlroy had played a key role in reshaping the Tour; he rallied support for a unified PGA Tour response to LIV, including a new model that has become the Signature Events that will define the 2024 PGA Tour season.
The other Player Directors will now elect a successor to serve the rest of McIlroy’s term.
Big picture, the news comes five months after the Tour entered into a framework agreement with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the backers of LIV Golf, to form a joint company going forward. McIlroy had spent much of the previous year fighting for the future of the PGA Tour in its battle against LIV; he admitted at the time that the deal’s sudden announcement left McIlroy feeling “like a sacrificial lamb.”
In the months that followed McIlroy stayed away from the topic where he could and backed off his original position, acknowledging the shifting dynamics of the professional game and the potential benefits of a PIF investment into the existing ecosystem. On Tuesday, he reiterated that at this point, he hopes the deal gets done.
The news also comes on the heels of a Monday board meeting memo delivered by Monahan updating players on board positions and on ongoing negotiations surrounding that framework agreement.
That memo expressed the Tour’s desire to negotiate “toward a Definitive Agreement with PIF and the DP World Tour.” It laid out additional interest from “dozens” of non-PIF investors, which it is evaluating. And it announced that Patrick Cantlay, who’d been serving in a one-year capacity, had been reappointed by the Player Directors to serve a three-year term from 2024-26. That formalized his place on the board alongside Charley Hoffman, Peter Malnati and Webb Simpson as well as Tiger Woods, who joined the board in August, and McIlroy.
It was the second time this week that Cantlay and McIlroy had been in headlines together; in an interview released Sunday McIlroy said that his relationship with Cantlay was “average at best” and added that they “see the world quite differently” in the context of McIlroy’s Ryder Cup showdown with Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava.
Michael Kim was among the first pros to react to McIlroy’s move; he wrote that he was “a bit sad” to see the news of his resignation.
“Hopefully someone thoughtful and reasonable will replace him,” he wrote on Twitter.
It’s clear that McIlroy continues to think about the future of the game. He made it clear on Tuesday that he’d been considering golf’s attempts to reach a younger audience. “The future of our game is trying to get the younger generations involved and trying to have them somehow relate to our game in some way,” he said.
McIlroy added praise for recent developments on the DP World Tour, which has formalized a pathway to the PGA Tour, a controversial decision because of its emphasis on the former as a feeder circuit. “It’s always been there. It’s just a bit more official,” he said.
He also mused on the end result of any discussions.
“Okay, if we can create a perfect golf calendar, what would it look like?” McIlroy asked rhetorically. “And I don’t think it would look like it looks right now. I think there would be changes made.”
But for now, if McIlroy is involved in those changes it will come from outside the boundaries of the Policy Board.
Until McIlroy comments on the resignation there’s no telling what combination of factors led to his decision, leaving questions about his motive, about the board’s future and about what leadership role he does or does not want to play. But in his Tuesday press conference, even as he trumpeted the financial strength of the professional game, he hinted at the questions it’s facing, too.
“I think if you were in the middle of it, you would see that there’s a path forward,” he said. “It’s just that no one on the outside has any details, right. Loose lips sink ships, so we are trying to keep it tight and within walls. I’m sure when there’s news to tell, it will be told.”
With McIlroy’s letter to the board later on Tuesday, a first bit of news has now been told. The entirety of what it means remains to be seen.