Rory McIlroy gives blunt view of LIV Golf as he reopens his attack on rebel tour
RORY McIlroy admits defending the PGA Tour in the LIV Golf controversy is a "burden" he doesn't need as he bids to end his near eight-year drought and win his fifth major at the US Open at Brookline.
Fresh from his spectacular win in the RBC Canadian Open, the world No 3 spent more time answering questions about the Saudi-financed breakaway circuit, which has paid hundreds of millions to the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell.
"It's certainly a burden I don't need," McIlroy said before heading out for nine holes with Shane Lowry, who has been grouped with LIV Golf rebels Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen.
"I certainly don't want to keep answering questions about it, but it is what it is and I will do my best to try and answer them."
Asked why he was taking on a spokesman's role that many believe should fall to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, he said: "Because in my opinion, it's the right thing to do. The PGA TOUR was created by people and tour players that came before us, the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer.
"They created something and worked hard for something, and I hate to see all the players that came before us and all the hard work that they've put in just come out to be nothing.
"I think one of the other things as well is the PGA TOUR has certainly given me a lot of opportunities, and I've benefited a lot from that, but I think what they've done for charity. They've raised -- if you put all the other major sporting organisations in this country -- so NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, if you put all their charitable dollars combined, the PGA TOUR has raised twice as much as that in their history.
"That is a massive legacy and something that I don't think people talk enough about, so when you are talking about the TOUR and everything that's happening right now, you have to see the bigger picture than just the golf, and I think I've tried to take a wider view of everything, and I just think it's the right thing to do."
McIlroy declared LIV Golf "dead in the water" when Mickelson made his controversial comments about the "scary" Saudi regime in February, which was quickly followed by statements of support for the PGA Tour from the likes of Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, who have subsequently done a U-turn and signed up to the new circuit.
McIlroy admitted his biggest mistake was believing those players would be true to their word.
"I guess I took a lot of players' statements at face value," McIlroy said. "I guess that's what I got wrong.
"You had people committed to the PGA TOUR, and that's the statements that were put out. People went back on that, so I guess I took them for face value. I took them at their word, and I was wrong."
Asked if he'd lost respect for Mickelson, he said: "As a golfer? No. He won a major championship 13 months ago, probably one of the crowning achievements of his career and one of the most impressive achievements in the history of the game of golf. As a golfer, I have the utmost respect for Phil.
"I've been disappointed with how he has gone about what he has done, but I think he has come back and shown some remorse about how he has handled some things, so I think he has learned from that.
"Who am I to sit up here and give Phil a lesson on how to do things? He has had a wonderful career. He is his own man. He is a great addition to the field this week. Am I disappointed he has taken the route that he has taken? I am, but I still respect him tremendously."
McIlroy declared his satisfaction at winning his 21st PGA Tour title in Toronto and overtaking LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, who has 20 wins in the US.
Describing the ongoing controversy as the "cloud that's hanging over golf at the minute", he took the opportunity to reiterate his belief that the LIV Golf Series is about nothing more than money.
"Look at those crowds on Sunday in Canada; LIV is never going to have that,” he told RTE’s Greg Allen. "Last week meant something; what they're doing over there doesn't really mean anything apart from collecting a ton of money.
"I'm really proud of the show that we put on last week — me, JT and Tony, we've all played great. I've talked about this before, but it's the competitive integrity we've got out there.
"You were up against the best. You need to bring the best out of yourself and that's what makes you so proud.
"The fact that I went up against JT, who is arguably going to be one of the best players of our generation and to be able to come out on top like that, that's competition and that's what makes you proud. When you left the trophy at the end of the day."
As for his hopes of contending for that elusive fifth major, he's upbeat.
"I hope so. The game is good," he said. "I'm in a good place with everything, so it's just a matter of not getting in my own way and overthinking it, going out and trusting my ability and if I do that, I will produce the golf that I want to.”
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