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Monday, May 20, 2024

The Rory McIlroy Roller Coaster and What It Means for Golf

  • The golfer is returning to the PGA Tour policy board after a five-month absence.
  • He has been back and forth on what he wants to see in the pro game.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Network

You may have seen the reports this week that Rory McIlroy is set to return to the PGA Tour policy board after a five-month absence. That move, which could be ratified Wednesday, would see McIlroy replace Webb Simpson and simultaneously gain a spot on the board of PGA Tour Enterprises, the for-profit entity established after Strategic Sports Group’s initial $1.5 billion investment in the Tour.

It’s been a wild ride for McIlroy since the emergence of LIV Golf, as the golfer currently ranked No. 2 in the world has gone back and forth on what he thinks is best for the game. Here’s a brief snapshot of some notable happenings:

  • Jan. 1, 2022: McIlroy becomes the first international player to serve on the PGA Tour policy board, just months before LIV Golf would launch and disrupt the sport.
  • June 7, 2023: One day after the bombshell announcement that the PGA Tour was seeking to partner with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, McIlroy says he still hates LIV, hopes it “goes away,” and “would rather retire” than play on the controversial circuit.
  • July 11, 2023: A U.S. Senate hearing dissecting the PGA Tour–PIF deal reveals that McIlroy met with PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan in late 2022 to talk about the state of pro golf.
  • Nov. 14, 2023: The PGA Tour announces that McIlroy has resigned from the policy board, with more than a year left on his term, citing personal and professional commitments.
  • Dec. 8, 2023: In the aftermath of Jon Rahm’s defecting to LIV Golf, McIlroy swiftly says the European Tour will have to change its rules ahead of the 2025 Ryder Cup so that the Spaniard can participate. No LIV Golf members were allowed to be a part of Europe’s winning team in the fall.
  • April 2, 2024: Ahead of the Masters, McIlroy says the current state of professional golf is “not sustainable,” and there needs to be a correction to bring all the best players back together.
  • April 16: McIlroy shoots down a rumor that he was close to signing with LIV Golf for $850 million, saying, “I honestly don’t know how these things get started.”
  • April 22: McIlroy’s return to the PGA Tour policy board is first reported by The Guardian.

Why His Return Matters

As McIlroy returns to his PGA Tour leadership role, he’ll join the likes of Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, and Patrick Cantlay in forging the best path ahead, weighing potential investment from the PIF. When he resigned in November, it was clear that McIlroy was fed up with the lack of progress made in unifying the pro game. 

The move didn’t do much to help McIlroy on the course, though—he won on the DP World Tour in January but has just one top-five finish on the PGA Tour and finished tied for 22nd at the Masters. At next month’s PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky, he’ll return to the course where he won his last major championship in August 2014.

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