So much for the bond of golf that could never be broken. Rory McIlroy announced on Wednesday that he “no longer has much of a relationship” with his Ryder Cup teammates who have joined the Saudi-sponsored rebel ring and dismissed the big three of Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter as ” not the future. of the European team”.
With all 15 LIV-contracted golfers here at the BMW PGA Championship disqualified from playing in Wednesday’s pro-am, it was a humbling day for the trio once considered heroes of the blue-and-gold brigade.
First, Keith Pelley, the CEO of the DP World Tour, came out of the blue in an emergency press conference where he accused Garcia of being part of the “LIV propaganda machine” and then McIlroy marched into the media center to expand Statement a few days ago weeks that he “couldn’t stomach” watching the rebels on the West Course.
“They are the ones who made this decision… I can hold my head high”
“They shouldn’t be here. They’re taking places away from players who really need points this week,” McIlroy said, before shrugging when asked if he was sad that friendships were affected by the game’s civil war.
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t say I have much of a relationship with them right now. But if you’re just talking about the Ryder Cup, it’s not the future of Team Europe. Their best days are behind them. And [as for our relationships] I haven’t done anything different. They are the ones who made this decision. I can sit here and hold my head up.”
Westwood has not been particularly close to McIlroy over the past decade, but Garcia attended McIlroy’s wedding and vice versa when they both tied the knot in 2017, with Poulter describing the Northern Irishman as a “mate”.
However, now McIlroy is so opposed to their antics at LIV that he believes we should welcome them straight back to the established tours if they ever made U-turns. “They could always get through Q-School, yeah,” he said, his expression blank.
McIlroy then mocked LIV’s renegades and 54-hole layout. When pressed if there would be added motivation here in the final round if he was up against an LIV player, McIlroy, again deadpan, responded. “They will be very tired on Sunday – it will be day four. I’m going to try to win a golf tournament regardless.”
However, this is not any old golf tournament. Indeed, because of the thick friction in the Surrey air, it’s not any old flagship event with a £7m purse. It will be fascinating to see how the sold-out galleries react, especially after Pelley’s verbal attack. At Monday’s AGM at the clubhouse he fielded questions from the LIV body, and at Tuesday’s players’ meeting, Poulter went again, wanting to know about the “strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour.
Pelley gave a no-nonsense response and repeated it the next morning to reporters, criticizing LIV for “spreading negative news and misinformation about the poor state of the traditional golf world, including our tour. It’s just not right and nothing could be further from the truth.”
The Canadian clearly believes Garcia is one of those to blame, making no secret of his disdain for the Spaniard’s recent claim that “the European Tour will become the fifth best in the world”, behind not only the PGA Tour and the LIV , but also the Asian Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour.
“Wow – he actually said that. One of our members. Unbelievable,” said Pelley, before using combined purses to prove his circuit is comfortably third in the “money count” and introducing other metrics to insist “we’re the second biggest tour by a country mile”.
Pelley also referred to Westwood saying last week that the Tour is now just a “feeder league” for the PGA Tour.
“A feeder tour is a tour that exists purely to allow players to get to the next level,” Pelley said.
“The Challenge Tour is a feeder tour. Korn Ferry Tour is a feed. I ask you: is this week a tournament that is powered? A sold-out tournament, worldwide TV coverage in 150 countries, five of the 15 best players in the world? A tournament with 150 accredited media? No, it is the answer to all these questions. So can we put an end to the feeder tour nonsense once and for all?”
That’s the unprecedented backdrop to Thursday’s first round here, with bitterness swirling among the faithful at what they see as “disrespect” to this beloved event by fellow pros who are only allowed to appear because of a temporary legal stay issued until the case is heard. on February.
“The request to players when they entered LIV was to not show disrespect to the Tour that gave you a platform to build your career. disrespect by constantly parroting LIV talking points and commenting negatively on our tour,” Pelley said.
“Some players followed that request perfectly. Others, however, did not behave this way at all. This is my biggest personal disappointment.”