teed off | 

‘Sick of it’ – Rory McIlroy defends PGATour in face of ‘greed’ claims

Rory McIlroy tees off on the 17th hole during the Genesis Invitational pro-am golf at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. Photo: Ryan Kang/AP

Rory McIlroy tees off on the 17th hole during the Genesis Invitational pro-am golf at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. Photo: Ryan Kang/AP

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods last night launched a stout defence of the PGA Tour in what will be seen as a direct response to Phil Mickelson’s charge of “obnoxious greed”.

Speaking ahead of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera and his first start since finding water at the 72nd hole in the Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy reiterated his opposition to the upstart new tour backed by Saudi Arabia. “I’m so sick of it,” McIlroy said of the talk, adding that he was still “intrigued” to see who might sign up to a proposed Super Golf League he has described a pure “money grab”.

“Certainly for the younger guys, it just seems a massive risk,” McIlroy said. “I can maybe make sense of it for the guys that are getting to the latter stages of their career, for sure. I don’t think that’s what a rival league is really. They don’t want some sort of league that’s like a pre-Champions Tour.

“I understand the financial part of it for guys that are later on in their career. You look at the people that have already said no – Rahm, number one in the world, Collin Morikawa, myself. Like you’ve got the top players in the world are saying no, so that has to tell you something.”

Mickelson complained bitterly of the PGA Tour’s handling of media rights, but McIlroy believes players are misinformed regarding the tour’s financial operations.

“Maybe they’re not educated enough on it, maybe they’ve got people in their ear that’s giving them misinformation,” he said. “I mean, what does the NBA do, what does the NFL do, MLB do? The Tour don’t control the media rights in some way.”

Tournament host Woods was also supportive of the tour. While he admitted the players had struggles over certain issues “for decades” he had no reason to “distrust” Commissioner Jay Monahan.

“Do I distrust the tour?” Woods said. “That is no. I have had a great relationship with Tim (Finchem) over the years and Jay (Monahan) over the years. Are there any disagreements? Yes, there are supposed to be. We as players want what’s best for us and Jay wants what’s best for the players and the brand as well.”

Both McIlroy and Woods are poles apart when it comes to playing golf, however.

McIlroy insists he has no second thoughts about the three-wood he sliced into water to lose the Dubai Desert Classic in his last start, and says he only needs to make “minor tweaks” to his game to get back to winning ways.

“Obviously, the end of that tournament in Dubai was disappointing, made a bad swing at a bad time,” he said, insisting he could have hit a five-wood or even a three-iron to the green.

“But I did a lot of really good things in there that I can’t forget about. I try to just focus on the couple of negatives that were there and tried to work on those last week, and felt like I’ve put in quite a bit of time and quite a bit of work since Dubai. My game actually feels pretty good coming here.”

He added: “The things you have to do well to put a score together, I did, which is really encouraging because if that part of the game’s there, then minor tweaks here or there is all the difference you need between doing what I did and winning.”

He’s made consistency his goal this year, believing that can only improve his chances of winning regular events and majors.

With the Masters just seven weeks away, he will play another four or five events, admitting he’s still on the fence about playing the WGC Dell Match Play after the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players.

“But I’ll definitely play San Antonio and then Augusta,” he said.

“Say you don’t make the weekend at the Match Play and you don’t play San Antonio, you’ve basically got two weeks off before you tee it up in arguably the biggest stroke play event of the year.”

As for Woods, he explained he was still working on being able to walk.

“I can chip and putt very well and hit short irons very well, but I am not able to do long stuff seriously,” he said. “I am still working on the walking part but it takes time and what’s frustrating is that it’s not at my timetable. I am getting better, but not at the speed I would like.

“I have seen progress. I am a lot stronger since the PNC. But I was in a cart. I can play weekend warrior golf but a practice round, pro-am, four competitive days, I am not able to do that yet.”

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