Rory McIlroy says the ongoing LIV Golf series saga will serve to "fracture" the sport and the four-time major winner feels many PGA Tour players viewed those joining the Saudi-backed circuit as "selfish". 

The LIV Golf series - headed up by chief executive Greg Norman - has faced immense criticism since it launched, with opponents labelling the new tour as an exercise in "sportswashing". 

That has not stopped several of the game's biggest stars signing up, however, with Bryson DeChambeau calling his own choice to feature on the circuit a "business decision" after joining the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood in competing. 

The first LIV Golf event took place last weekend in London, with South Africa's Charl Schwartzel pocketing $4.75million as the inaugural winner.

McIlroy has been one of the most open critics of the new series, appearing to taunt Norman after surpassing his tally of 20 PGA Tour victories with his 21st triumph on Sunday, the successful defence of his Canadian Open title.

Before conducting a press conference ahead of the U.S. Open – which begins on Thursday – McIlroy insisted the new venture was only going to widen divides within the sport. 

"If it keeps going the way it's going, it's going to fracture the game – sorry, it's going to fracture the game more than it already is," he told Sky Sports.

"The professional world in golf has already been fractured, there's so many different tours, so many different things to follow.

"I've always been an advocate of trying to make it more cohesive and trying to get people to work together more. This is ripping that apart. 

"If people want to spend money in the game - and it's not regardless of where that money comes from - I think, if the Saudis are hell-bent on spending money in golf, let's get it spent in a way that benefits the wider ecosystem.

"That's where I would like to see it going, but whether that happens or not remains to be seen."

While McIlroy was reluctant to label any player's decision to feature on the new circuit as a "betrayal", he said many of his peers on the PGA Tour did not look upon such choices kindly.

"Betrayal's a very strong word," he said. "It's disappointing, I think the players that have decided to stay on the PGA Tour maybe feel slighted in some way, or feel those guys have been selfish, because it's for personal gain.

"I think in any industry or business, we have to lift each other up and try to make it as best we can for everyone. 

"I think if those guys [the LIV Golf players] thought outside of themselves, they'd see this wasn't best for everyone, that's my point of view on it.

"Everyone has their own goals and their own ambitions and thoughts, and they have to do what they feel is right for themselves."

Having reluctantly emerged as one of the most heralded opponents of the new circuit, McIlroy feels defending the PGA Tour is the right thing to do, considering his strong views.

"It's certainly a burden I don't need," he added. "But I have pretty strong views on the subject, and I don't think it would be right for me to have these strong opinions and not share them.

"I think I'm providing the commentary for a different thought process that is shared by a lot of people, that's the thing.

"I'm put in front of a camera more than most and everyone's here for me all the time about this subject."

Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell have hit out at the PGA Tour for their handling of players who have decided to participate in LIV Golf, calling it a "power struggle".

The PGA Tour made the bold move of waiting until after the first LIV Golf event in London had teed off before announcing that any player who participates in the Saudi-backed promotion is "suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play, including the President's Cup."

In the first round of LIV Golf's debut event, Charl Schwartzel earned the outright lead at five under, trailed by Hennie Du Plessis at four under, while Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson were also among the 10 players to finish under par.

Speaking after the round, Poulter strongly disagreed with the PGA Tour's decision to force players to choose between the tours.

"I've played a lot of tournaments all around the world, this event is no different," he said. "It's a shame if they view this as something different.

"I will appeal for sure. It makes no sense. Having two tour cards and the ability to play golf all over the world, what's wrong with that? I believe I've been given permission in the past to play in events around the world.

"I don't know why [the decision was made] – we can all make assumptions as to why. Competition is probably the real reason. It's a power struggle, and it's just disappointing."

Fellow U.K. golfer McDowell echoed Poulter's sentiments, saying it is ridiculous that they are not allowed to compete in events relatively local to them.

"Some guys believe that they shouldn't be in the situation where they have to resign," he said. "They don't feel like they are doing anything wrong. 

"We haven't been issued releases, [but] we feel like we should have been issued releases. We've done it for the last 20 years, operated all over the world.

"We're in the U.K – you've players like myself and Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, we are in our home markets here.

"We should be allowed to operate here as professional golfers. But hey, we all know the situation is about something bigger.

"It's competition and it's not liked. They are having to play the game the way they feel they have to play it, which is playing hard ball.

"We feel confident that we are well-protected and we are going to just try and do our best."

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