Not that there is ever an absence of confidence in Rory McIlroy, but the Northern Irishman’s demeanour on the eve of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth reeked of assurance.
When the inevitable LIV Golf questions came up, McIlroy’s responses were those of a man who knows the subject inside and out, upside-down and right ways up. This was a press conference laced with the four-time major champion’s routine intelligence, interspersed with the odd bit of witty repartee.
Asked how much of his FedEx Cup prize money he would give to not answer questions on LIV, McIlroy was quick to dispel any such notion.
“Oh, I want you to,” he said with a smile. “I’ve been in the middle of it for a long time. I know exactly what’s happening and what’s coming down the pipeline. So I want you to. Give me it all. It’s fine.”
So the assembled press corps did just that.
First up, McIlroy reaffirmed his opposition to the presence of 18 LIV Golfers in the field for this, the so-called flagship event on the DP World Tour.
“It is what it is,” he shrugged. “They are here. They are playing the golf tournament. My opinion is they shouldn’t be here, but again that’s just my opinion. But we are all going to tee it up on the first tee tomorrow, and we are all going to go play 72 holes, which is a novelty for them at this point, and then we’ll go from there.”
Among the aforementioned 18 are the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia. All three have played in multiple Ryder Cups. And both Poulter and Garcia have partnered with McIlroy wearing Europe’s colours in the biennial contest with the United States. Until recently, they’ve been pals. But not any more.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve got much of a relationship with them at the minute,” McIlroy said. “But again, if you’re just talking about Ryder Cup, that’s not the future of the Ryder Cup team. They have played in probably a combined 25 Ryder Cups, 30 Ryder Cups, whatever it is. But the future of the Ryder Cup is the Højgaards [twin brothers Nicolai and Rasmus], Bobby Mac [Robert MacIntyre] and whoever else is coming up. They are what we should be thinking about and talking about.”
The conversation shifted to the proposed elevated events that are going to dominate the future of the PGA Tour. When that plan was announced, there was no mention of the DP World Tour’s role in what many see as the brave new world that will defeat the evil LIV. Is McIlroy really in there fighting for his home circuit?
“I am. For the benefit of the global game, a handful of those events need to be in Europe,” responded McIlroy, who in addition to playing this week, will compete in the upcoming Alfred Dunhill Links and the Italian Open. “I’ve said that from the start. This can’t be American-centric. This has to be with this region in mind, with wherever we want to go and play. That has to happen. So I think the partnership between the PGA Tour and the European Tour is mutually beneficial. By partnering with the DP World Tour, the PGA Tour unlocks the global nature of the game that they have not really been able to get a stronghold over.
“What you’re going to see is the bigger European events incorporated into the January to August time frame,” McIlroy continued. “The two tours are going to run side-by-side. Now, am I going to go play in, I don’t know, the Dutch Open? Probably not. I haven’t played the Dutch Open in 10 years, not to pick on that tournament. But think about what happened at the Scottish Open this year. That was a co-sanctioned event. You’re going to see quite a bit more of that going forward.”
Expanding on that theme, McIlroy took time to look at an even bigger picture, one that will surely resonate with anyone and everyone involved in the current chaos.
“I’m loyal to golf, that’s the thing,” he said. “Golf was here way before we all were, and golf will be around much longer. Golf is going to survive regardless. We are just a little blip on the continuum of this game. But you want to make sure that you leave the game in a better place than you found it. That’s where my loyalty lies.”
Speaking of which, in response to a left-field question regarding how keen McIlroy might be to play for the International side in the upcoming President’s Cup, he expressed an immediate and inordinate level of enthusiasm.
“One hundred percent. It’s at Quail Hollow. Have you seen me play Quail Hollow?” McIlroy said, a three-time winner at the Charlotte course. “I’d love to play. [International captain] Trevor [Immelman] and I have had some chats recently. I said I’m available if he can get me in. I’m sure there might be some Australian or some South African in me somewhere, I don’t know. I’d love to play if I could. But obviously that’s not an option.”
In addition to playing in this week’s BMW PGA, McIlroy will also compete in the DP World Tour’s upcoming Alfred Dunhill Links and the Italian Open.
Ah, but there was still time for a wee bit of good-natured tweaking of the LIV boys. Asked if there could ever be a way back to the established tours for those who have decided jump to the fledging Saudi-backed circuit, McIlroy did not hesitate.
“They can always go through Q-School.”
And would there be any extra incentive should Rory find himself battling down the stretch with a LIV interloper come Sunday afternoon?
“I’ll be trying to win a golf tournament regardless. They are going to be pretty tired on Sunday; it will be the fourth day.”
Hey, if you didn’t laugh, you’d have to cry.