McIlroy backs new no-cut events as he claims LIV Golf has been vital wake-up call to PGA Tour

By Sports Desk March 07, 2023

Rory McIlroy claimed the emergence of the LIV Golf Invitational Series "has benefitted everyone that plays elite professional golf" and whipped the PGA Tour into shape after years of being mired in an "antiquated" existence.

The Northern Irishman was not changing his tune and singing the praises of the Saudi-backed series, but he believes it has served as a timely jolt for the US-based PGA Tour, shaking it from a long stupor.

Ahead of this week's Players Championship at Sawgrass, McIlroy was part of a player meeting with PGA Tour bosses on Tuesday in which details of eight newly designated no-cut tournaments for next season were explained.

The limited-field events have sparked mockery from players on the LIV circuit, who have accused the PGA Tour of mimicking the breakaway series after previously being so critical.

There have also been suggestions of concerns from within the PGA Tour ranks that players with tour cards will be frozen out of the biggest events, making it a clear two-tier tour.

McIlroy, who has been heavily involved in strategy meetings, does not agree and believes there is ample opportunity for players to perform well and earn a place in the elite events, pointing out there would be 29 full-field tournaments next year.

He felt Tuesday's meeting had helped the sceptics, saying: "I think when more information and data was presented to them, the people that maybe had reservations about it I think came around, or at least were more informed on their opinions.

"I think the temperature in the room was nowhere near as hot as I anticipated it to be once the information was laid out."

McIlroy said players wanted to be convinced "that there's enough jeopardy built into the system". He admitted a previous meeting, held in Delaware last August, had been "very self-serving for the 20 players in that room", with tour chiefs talking them down and ensuring more flexibility was built into line-up potential for the no-cut events.

The world number three confirmed fields of around 50 players had been proposed at one point, with only 10 players dropping out each year. Now these lucrative tournaments will see 70 to 80 players involved.

"You know Tiger Woods won 26 no-cut events in his career, right. There's always been no-cut events," McIlroy said. "Jack Nicklaus won 20 no-cut events. Arnold Palmer won 17.

"There's precedent for no-cut events. The cuts that you have to make to get into those events, so making the play-offs, getting into the top 50, there's certain things that you have to do to qualify for those events. I think that's more than fair to warrant eight events a year that are guaranteeing the players four days."

McIlroy has been as vocal as anybody in opposing the LIV series, with the 33-year-old scathing about many of the players who have taken the tens of millions on offer.

Given its Saudi backing, and criticism of that country's human rights record, the LIV series has been cited by many critics as an attempt at sportswashing.

Superstars including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau have joined LIV Golf, and the PGA Tour is determined to fend off the threat of any more luminaries leaving.

Cameron Smith, last year's champion at Sawgrass, is another who has taken the LIV money, and consequently will be absent from the field this week.

Asked how much of the change happening on the PGA Tour now, with prize money soaring, could be attributed to LIV's encroachment, McIlroy said: "A lot of it. I'm not going to sit here and lie; I think the emergence of LIV or the emergence of a competitor to the PGA Tour has benefitted everyone that plays elite professional golf.

"When you've been the biggest golf league in the biggest market in the world for the last 60 years, there's not a lot of incentive to innovate.

"This has caused a ton of innovation at the PGA Tour, and what was quite, I would say, an antiquated system is being revamped to try to mirror where we're at in the world in the 21st century with the media landscape.

"The PGA Tour isn't just competing with LIV Golf or other sports. It's competing with Instagram and TikTok and everything else that's trying to take eyeballs away from the PGA Tour as a product.

"LIV coming along has definitely had a massive impact on the game, but I think everyone who's a professional golfer is going to benefit from it going forward."

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