BROOKLINE, Mass. — Rory McIlroy said he is disappointed that some PGA Tour players have taken the “easy road” and joined rival LIV Golf Invitational Series, and how six-time Grand Slam champion Phil Mickelson helped create the new circuit.
McIlroy, speaking at a news conference Tuesday before this week’s US Open at The Country Club, said he understands why older players were tempted by millions of dollars in signing bonuses from LIV Golf, but he believes the more young people who left made a short-sighted decision. when deserting.
“I understand. Yes, because a lot of these guys are in their 40s,” McIlroy said. “In Phil’s case, early 50s. Yeah, I think everyone in this room would tell themselves their best days are behind them. That’s why I don’t understand guys who are a similar age to me going because I’d like to believe that my best days are yet to come, and I think theirs are too. So that’s where it feels like you’re taking the easy way out.”
While McIlroy, 33, said he didn’t lose respect for Mickelson as a player, noting he became golf’s oldest champion at age 50 at the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, he didn’t liked how Mickelson handled his defection to LIV. Golf.
“He won a major championship 13 months ago, probably one of the most important achievements of his career and one of the most impressive achievements in golf history,” McIlroy said. “As a golfer, I have the utmost respect for Phil. He disappointed me with how he did what he did, but I think he came back and showed some remorse for how he handled some things, so I think he’s learned from that.
Mickelson is competing at the US Open this week, his first start in the United States since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January. Mickelson and 16 other players who competed in LIV Golf’s inaugural event in London last week have been suspended by the PGA Tour.
“Who am I to sit here and give Phil a lesson on how to do things?” McIlroy said. “He’s had a wonderful career. He’s his own man. He’s a great addition to the field this week. Am I disappointed that he’s taken the route he’s taken? I am, but I still respect him.” enormously”.
McIlroy seemed very disappointed that several players who had previously pledged their allegiance to the PGA Tour, including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Pat Perez, changed their minds. At the Genesis in February, McIlroy said LIV Golf seemed “dead in the water” after many of golf’s top players said they wouldn’t be leaving the PGA Tour.
“I guess I took a lot of the players’ statements at face value,” said McIlroy, a four-time Grand Slam champion whose wins include the 2011 US Open. “I guess I was wrong about that. There were people committed to the PGA Tour, and that’s what was put out in the statements. People retracted that, so I guess I took them at face value. I took them at face value, and I was wrong.”
McIlroy said he understood why the families and friends of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks would be upset that Mickelson and other players are accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in signing bonuses from LIV Golf, which is being funded. by Saudi Arabia. Public Investment Fund.
Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
“Yes, of course I do,” McIlroy said. “I think everything that’s going on with this [LIV Golf] tour, legitimize your place in the world, and I’m sure not all Saudis are bad people. We are talking about this in such a general way. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and the vast majority of people I’ve met there are very, very good people, but there are bad people everywhere. The bad people that came from that part of the world did absolutely horrendous things.”
While McIlroy said it was difficult to separate sports from politics and “dirty money from clean money” in today’s world, he understands why 9/11 survivors and families of victims are upset.
“It’s a very complicated world right now,” McIlroy said. “I certainly relate to those families, and I can’t imagine it. I have friends who have lost people on 9/11, and it’s really tragic. I relate to those families, and I certainly understand their concerns and frustrations about it.” . everybody.”
McIlroy, who is a longtime friend and former Ryder Cup teammate with Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell, who played in the inaugural LIV Golf event in London last week, stopped short of saying they were involved. in sports washing for the Saudis.
“I don’t think they are complicit,” McIlroy said. “Look, everyone has a choice to play where they want to play, and they’ve made their choice. My dad told me a long time ago, ‘Once you make your bed, you lie in it,’ and they’ve made their bed. That It’s their decision, and they have to live with it.”
McIlroy, at least for now, doesn’t seem inclined to join them.
“Because, in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do,” McIlroy said. “The PGA Tour was created by people and Tour players who came before us, like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. They created something and worked hard for something, and I hate to see all the players who came before us and all the hard work “. the work they have put in ends up being nothing”.