Top golfer Rory McIlroy, who had become the unofficial face of the PGA Tour and the backlash against Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf, capitulated Wednesday to the merger of the two sides, saying it will “ultimately be good for the game of golf “.
“I still hate LIV,” said McIlroy, who ranks third overall on the PGA men’s tour ahead of a tournament in Canada on Wednesday. “Like it or not, the (Public Investment Fund) will continue to spend money on golf. At least the PGA Tour now determines how that money is spent.”
McIlroy’s comments came a day after Saudi Arabia’s PGA and PIF announced plans to jointly control professional golf’s commercial entities, effectively merging the two sides after a two-year feud within the sport. .
The surprise union ends pending lawsuits between the PGA and LIV Golf, the rival tour that lured top competitors like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson with contracts reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
McIlroy and the PGA leadership had long opposed Saudi competition with the Northern Irishman previously said that the LIV tour had “torn up” the golf world and that he stayed with the PGA to “do things for the right reasons”.
On Wednesday, McIlroy pointed to the framework agreement between the PGA and the PIF, which will have tour manager Jay Monahan as CEO of the yet-to-be-named joint commercial entity. Yasir al-Rumayyan, governor of the PIF, will become chairman and the fund will retain the right of first refusal for future capital investments in the company.
“If you think about one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, would you rather have it as a partner or an enemy?” said McIlroy at a press conference ahead of the RBC Canadian Open. “Ultimately, it’s about money and you’d rather have (the PIF) as a partner.”
News of the merger of PGA and PIF sparked outrage among families of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, who said in a statement Tuesday that “the PGA and Monahan just seem to have become more paid Saudi shills, which cost billions of dollars to the Saudi reputation”.
Bryson DeChambeau, a professional golfer who joined LIV Golf last year, was asked by CNN on Tuesday how he could reconcile allegations that Saudi agents killed Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as Saudi ties to the 9/11 attacks.
“What happened is absolutely horrific,” he said. “I think as time has gone on, 20 years have passed and we are now in a place where it is time to work together to make things better. . . (Saudi Arabia) are trying to do good for the world and show themselves in a light that has not been seen for a while. No one is perfect, but we all try to improve in life”.