Rory McIlroy reveals ‘dream scenario’ amid PGA Tour, LIV Golf talks

Even though Rory McIlroy resigned from the PGA Tour’s Policy Board in November, he still has a vision of what professional golf’s future should look like.

Speaking with John Huggan of Golf Digest in Dubai—as McIlroy will begin his 2024 season at the inaugural Dubai Invitational this week—the Northern Irishman revealed his ‘dream scenario’ for the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

“My dream scenario is a world tour, with the proviso that corporate America has to remain a big part of it all. Saudi Arabia, too. That’s just basic economics. But there is an untapped commercial opportunity out there. Investors always want to make a return on their money,” McIlroy said Tuesday.

“Revenues at the PGA Tour right now are about $2.3 billion. So, how do we get that number up to four or six? To me, it is by looking outward. They need to think internationally and spread their wings a bit. I’ve been banging that drum for a while.”

These comments come just days after McIlroy reversed his course on LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed circuit he has long been critical of.

Rory McIlroy, DP World Tour, Dubai Invitational

Rory McIlroy during a practice round ahead of the 2024 Dubai Invitational.
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

“I think what LIV has done is exposed the flaws in the system of what golf has,” McIlroy said on the English Stick to Football podcast on Jan. 3.

We’re all supposed to be independent contractors, and we can pick and choose what tournaments we want to play. But I think what LIV and the Saudis have exposed is that you’re asking for millions of dollars to sponsor these events, and you’re not able to guarantee to the sponsors that the players are going to show up.”

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the sovereign wealth fund for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and reportedly has more than $700 billion in assets. The PIF has invested over $1 billion into LIV Golf, staging tournaments around the globe and awarding outlandish sums of money to players at these events.

To combat this, the PGA Tour has been forced to increase its purse sizes and squeeze more capital from its corporate partners.

The tour relies on its sponsors to operate; without them, it would likely cease to exist.

The PGA Tour thus created ‘Signature Events’ for 2024: eight tournaments with elevated purses and limited top-heavy fields. Some of these lack a 36-hole cut. That means the top players will focus on playing in these events while ignoring smaller, full-field events that have been historic fabrics of the tour.

And PGA Tour brass has seen some sponsors walk away—like Honda and Wells Fargo—because of these rising costs, elevated purses, and a lack of commitment from top players.

Rory McIlroy, Jay Monahan, PGA Tour, TOUR Championship

Rory McIlroy watches PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan address the media at the 2022 Tour Championship.
Photo by Rankin White/PGA Tour via Getty Images

But with Jon Rahm bolting to LIV and the PGA Tour pressing sponsors, the two sides need to settle their differences, come together, and finalize an agreement soon.

Negotiations between the PGA Tour and the PIF remain ongoing.

Professional golf is in peril, with the best players in the world residing on different tours. They are not competing against one another outside of the four major championships.

Hence, the tour needs to strike a deal with the PIF.

Should the two sides come together, tremendous commercial opportunity would become available, as McIlroy alluded to. Perhaps ‘Signature Events’ will become a flash in the pan, and every non-major will see similar purse and field sizes.

On top of this, LIV Golf has disrupted the golfing ecosystem because it has brought some of the world’s best players to regions often ignored by the PGA Tour.

Take Australia, for instance—a country neglected by the PGA Tour despite producing some of the greatest golfers ever, like LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman.

Last April, LIV Golf staged its most successful event in Adelaide—South Australia’s largest city. Over 70,000 excited Aussies showed up as LIV Golf’s Adelaide event turned into one raucous party. Talor Gooch went on to win.

Talor Gooch, LIV Golf

Talor Gooch hits onto the 18th green during the final round of the LIV Golf Adelaide event in April 2023.
Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images

Then, in December, LIV Golf’s Joaquin Niemann of Chile fended off Australia’s Min Woo Lee to capture the illustrious Australian Open in Sydney.

Niemann and Lee are two of golf’s bright young stars, so seeing them play alongside each other was a welcome sight.

And this is how McIlroy envisions the new world of professional golf.

“Whether [events] are rotated on the new global circuit, or we go with the same ones every year, I’m okay with either,” McIlroy noted.

“The Australian Open, for example, should almost be the fifth major. The market down there is huge with potential. They love golf. They love sport. They have been starved of top-level golf. And the courses are so good.”

Australia has some of the best golf courses in the world, many located within the famous Sand Belt region.

Rory McIlroy, PGA Tour, Genesis Scottish Open

Rory McIlroy hits out of the bunker during the final round of the 2023 Scottish Open, his last professional victory.
Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA Tour via Getty Images

But plenty of other countries around the world have fantastic golf architecture, too—and the best players on the planet deserve to play them.

Fans in these places deserve to see them, too.

“The South African Open is another I’d have in the mix,” McIlroy added.

“Then you have places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. What a market Japan represents. That would be another opportunity… Throw in the four majors, and you have a brilliant schedule for the top 70-to-100 guys, whatever the number is. We’d have, say, a 22-event schedule. That would look pretty good to me.”

Perhaps other national opens, like the Irish Open, French Open, and Mexico Open, could all be incorporated, too.

McIlroy, who has won seven national opens during his career—including the U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and the Australian Open—would welcome this development.

So, too, would most of the golfing world.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

Source link

Latest articles

Related articles