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Could Rory McIlroy actually do the unthinkable?

Could Rory take the plunge? NCG’s Matt Chivers argues with himself about what difference it would make if he jumped ship for the Saudi-backed league

 

The answer is probably no, but there was no “probably” about it last year.

Does Rory McIlroy still hate LIV Golf? He certainly doesn’t think it will vanish any time soon, which is what he suspected might happen after the PGA Tour-PIF agreement was announced last June.

The Northern Irishman has even admitted to the prospect of signing up to the Saudi-funded league if it took the form of cricket’s Indian Premier League.

He also wants a World Tour, an idea first concocted by Greg Norman himself in the mid-90’s which was rejected.

McIlroy is coming around to the idea of shorter forms, compact fields featuring top players and all of this is nailed down by revolting sums of prize money in the sport’s new direction of travel.

LIV Golf was the first to start driving, and now the PGA Tour has followed by introducing Signature Events, the majority of which have no cut and guaranteed earnings.

McIlroy was near the centre of discussions that produced the 2024 PGA Tour schedule which, in principle, is based around these eight $20 million events.

The introduction of these events was the key change made to this calendar year’s rota and one that McIlroy and other top players supported.

We won’t dive into petty arguments about the differences between the PGA Tour and LIV, but they both share an obsessive, financial core.

They aren’t twins, but siblings that look alike.

rory mcilroy

Also: Does Rory McIlroy’s driver suit high handicappers?

What difference would it make to Rory McIlroy if he moved to LIV Golf?

McIlroy’s schedule is built around the majors and these Signature Events. So I ask: What difference would it make to his life if he moved to LIV Golf?

Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith, for example, will play in all four majors and their own schedule of lucrative LIV events in 2024.

This trio will play about 18 tournaments this year, perhaps with the odd Asian Tour appearance. Guess how many events McIlroy played last year on the PGA Tour? 18.

Like his LIV Golf foes, who have really been friends for the most part, he is focused on the majors while being tied down to a handful of big-money, limited-field tournaments which his schedule is based around.

Let’s take a look at where McIlroy played his golf on the PGA Tour in 2023 after winning the CJ Cup at the start of the wrap-around season:

  • WM Phoenix Open – Elevated Event – $20 million purse
  • Genesis Invitational – Elevated Event – $20 million purse
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational – Elevated Event – $20 million purse
  • The Players Championship – $25 million purse
  • WGC Dell Match Play – Elevated Event – $20 million purse
  • The Masters – Major – $18 million purse
  • Wells Fargo Championship – Elevated Event – $20 million purse
  • PGA Championship – Major – $17.5 million
  • Memorial Tournament – Elevated Event – $20 million purse
  • RBC Canadian Open – Full-field event – $9 million
  • US Open – Major – $20 million
  • Travelers Championship – Elevated Event – $20 million purse
  • Genesis Scottish Open – Co-sanctioned with DP World Tour – $9 million
  • The Open – Major – $16.5 million
  • FedEx St. Jude Championship – FedEx Cup Playoffs – $20 million
  • BMW Championship – FedEx Cup Playoffs – $20 million
  • Tour Championship – FedEx Cup Playoffs – Winner received $18 million

If you replace the 13 non-major events in this line-up with the 13 events that led up to LIV’s Team Championship finale in 2023, McIlroy’s schedule would be untouched.

He’d have to make the same amount of commitments and he’d be playing for insanely big money in smaller fields that are increasingly being filled with the PGA Tour’s biggest names.

Even if we put the logistical and financial considerations to one side, McIlroy resigned from the PGA Tour Policy Board months after revealing he felt like a sacrificial lamb when the tour jumped in bed with the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia which bankrolls LIV.

He now accepts LIV’s existence and he admits he was too judgmental of those who accepted offers to join Norman’s roster

You would still say there is little to no chance McIlroy will join LIV. He loves the Ryder Cup too much, he still plays and wins on the DP World Tour and he is hellbent on legacy, like his friend Tiger Woods.

But we’ve heard all of this before, haven’t we?

The point is that his current schedule is not too dissimilar to the one the sport’s best players are continually joining, so would a switch in career path be the nightmarish move it once was?

NOW READ: Where is Rory McIlroy playing next on the PGA Tour?

NOW READ: What clubs does Rory McIlroy use?

Would you be surprised at a LIV Golf-Rory McIlroy link-up? Tell us on X/Twitter!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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