Rory McIlroy reacts to list of golfers playing in first LIV Golf event

DUBLIN, Ohio – Rory McIlroy is not going to London next week to play in the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series at the Centurion Club.

But he doesn’t begrudge anyone who is.

“I have some very close friends that are playing in this event in London, and I certainly wouldn’t want to stand in their way to do what they feel is right for themselves,” McIlroy said Wednesday at Muirfield Village Golf Club, home to The Memorial. “It’s not something that I would do personally. But I certainly understand why some of the guys have went, and it’s something that we are all just going to keep an eye on and see what happens over these next few weeks. “

The upstart golf league headed by Greg Norman and backed by Saudi Arabia, announced the field Tuesday night for the first of eight events. Former world No. 1 and two-time major champion Dustin Johnson headlines the field. Earlier this year, Johnson pledged his allegiance to the PGA Tour but hedged a bit when talking at the PGA Championship.

“Dustin has been contemplating the opportunity off-and-on for the past couple of years,” said Johnson’s manager, David Winkle with Hambric Sports, in a statement. “Ultimately, he decided it was in his and his family’s best interest di lui to pursue it. Dustin has never had any issue with the PGA Tour and is grateful for all it has given him, but in the end, he felt this was too compelling to pass up. “

Major champions Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Charles Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell also are in the field, as are Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Kevin Na. Forty-two of the 48 players were announced; five others will qualify from the Asian Tour Series event this week and one invite remains. That could go to Phil Mickelson, who hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since January as he took a leave of absence following incendiary remarks aimed at the PGA Tour and the oppressive Saudi Arabia regime.

Sixteen of the world’s top 100 will play in the 54-hole, no-cut event featuring a $ 25 million purse, with $ 4 million going to the winner.

McIlroy described his feeling as “indifferent” when he saw the field.

“I certainly don’t think the field is anything to jump up and down about,” McIlroy said. “Look the field this week. Look at the field next week in Canada. They are proper golf tournaments. “

But he understands why some players will opt to play the LIV Golf Series.

“You have some guys in a position where like they are literally not guaranteed a job next year. It’s hard to stay in the Top 125 out here, especially when you’re a guy in your 40s and maybe you don’t hit the ball as far as you’ve used to, ”McIlroy said. “As we’ve seen, it’s a young man’s game nowadays. So someone that isn’t guaranteed their Tour card next year, another entity comes along and says, we’ll guarantee you this amount for three years, plus you’re playing for a ton more prize money, and you’re playing less events , you can spend more time with your family.

“Whenever you sit down and look at some of those things, you know, it’s very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position. I’m not in that position, and it’s not something that I would do. “

The PGA Tour has threated serious penalties for those PGA Tour members who play in the LIV Golf Series events. Commissioner Jay Monahan denied player releases to play in London, as did the DP World Tour.

The PGA Tour released this statement Wednesday:

As communicated to our entire membership on May 10, PGA Tour members have not been authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA Tour Tournament Regulations. Members who violate the Tournament Regulations are subject to disciplinary action.

Three players in The Memorial field are heading to London – James Piot, the 2021 US Amateur champion, and PGA Tour winners Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford. Piot declined to talk about his decision of him, Jones and Swafford did not.

Matt Jones, whose most recent win came in the 2021 Honda Classic, said he’s comfortable with his decision.

“I ran over everything with all my people on my team and came to the conclusion that it was a good choice for me for business aspect, for family aspect, and hopefully for the future of golf to grow the game,” said Jones, who will play multiple events and received a signing bonus. “I like the team aspect of things. Three-day events, 48-man fields, the shotgun playing, all at the same time in the same weather conditions. The schedule is great for me with three kids, three young girls. I want to be around as a dad. I mean, I’ve been out here for 15 years. I’ve missed a lot of what goes on in my kids’ life. I was raised with a mom and dad that were always there for me. They were there at every sporting event, every schooling event. And that’s something I’d like to try and do for my kids. “

Jones said he knows his playing days on the PGA Tour could be threatened.

“We’ll find out what happens. I don’t think banning players from playing the PGA tour as independent contractors is very good for golf, ”he said. “It’s not a good look for anyone. I understand the Tour wants to protect their players and their product they have out here, but I don’t think that’s a good way to go about it.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of the people in the organization. I feel very good about the LIV people and the future plan they have in place to try and grow the game even more. “

Swafford said he considered a lot of things before arriving at his decision.

“When I first heard about it, I love the team component of it. Team golf, it adds a different flavor to it and makes it interesting. Great example was Zurich. Tough place in schedule, they went to a team deal and it’s one of the best fields on the tour. That was intriguing, ”he said. “I’ve got two kids now. Not traveling as much is appealing. There’s a lot of things that went into the decision. I still want to play the PGA Tour. I definitely do. I love the tour.

“Suspending players? That’s not growing the game of golf. That’s what LIV is trying to do – give more opportunities to more golfers. I think it’s going to be a great thing. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on it. I’m excited to play. “

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