From Tiger Woods to TGL Golf, and LIV to Gareth Bale – Rory McIlroy spoke about the lot on the Stick to Football podcast…
You’ve probably caught wind of Rory McIlroy’s recent appearance on a popular podcast by now.
The Northern Irishman covered a plethora of issues when speaking to Stick to Football, brought to you by Sky Bet.
Jon Rahm, LIV Golf, the Ryder Cup. Think of something else and McIlroy discussed it with a group of football legends.
We’ve covered these issues and you can read the links here:
But what else did the four-time major champion have to say at the start of 2024? We’ve summarised all of the highlights below…
Rory McIlroy: Stick to Football interview
Is the PGA Tour asking too much of sponsors?
After Wells Fargo announced it wouldn’t continue its long-running deal with the Wells Fargo Championship beyond 2024, McIlroy discussed sponsorship on the tour:
“Competition is good to help improve the sport of golf overall, but the PGA Tour competing with LIV and the Saudi’s money is completely unsustainable.
“You’re never going to win a fight if you’re going money for money because we’ve seen that in other sports where no one is spending money like the Saudis.
“So how can you tilt the odds in your favour so that you can make your product better, that you can make fans want to engage with you more?
“I think that’s how the PGA Tour can “win this fight”, because there’s negotiations going on and everyone is trying to come back together, which I think would be good for golf.
“It put the PGA Tour in a position where they had to spend a lot of money that put them on a path that was unsustainable and now you’re seeing some sponsors are pulling out because the tour is asking for so much money and the sponsors can’t afford it.
“They’re asking sponsors to pay $20-25 million to sponsor an event but they’re not seeing the value in it as they can’t guarantee the top 50 guys will be playing, so they won’t give them the money.”
LIV Golf should spend money on other things
Grow the game? McIlroy wants exactly that with the millions being invested into golf:
“I’ve come to realise that if you’ve got people or a sovereign wealth fund wanting to spend money in your sport, ultimately that’s a good thing, but you want them to spend it the right way and spend it on things that are important to the game.
“Instead of giving someone $100m, why don’t you put $50m into a grassroots programme for The Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) or the United States Golf Association (USGA) so that you can help to grow the game, and not spend it trying to buy talent. I think that would be a better way to spend the money.”
Never having an offer from LIV Golf
The 34-year-old has always maintained he’s never had an offer from LIV Golf:
“I’ve never had an offer from LIV Golf personally. I didn’t engage with it when they came to me and I think at this point, I’ve set my stall out. The numbers are unbelievable, and we’ve seen the stuff that’s happening in football and F1, so they’re getting into sport.
“They’re getting the World Cup in 2034, so they’re making a huge splash in the entire world of sport. It’s no different than what the UAE has done in the past.”
LIV Golf should copy the Indian Premier League
This isn’t the first time cricket’s Indian Premier League has been mentioned in the same breath as LIV Golf:
“What I would love LIV to turn into is almost like the Indian Premier League of golf. The IPL in cricket, they take two months during the calendar, you have four weeks in May and four weeks in November, and you go and do this team stuff – it’s a bit different, and it’s a different format.
“If they were to do something like that, I think that sounds like fun – you’re at least working within the ecosystem.
“It’s not like the Saudis in football are trying to take over the entire sport – the Saudis have basically exposed some of the flaws in the structures of professional golf, and they could come in with $1/2 billion, which couldn’t even buy a football club in some instances – but they’ve been able to completely disrupt our game with that money.
“It exposed some of those flaws, and hopefully we can all put our heads together and think about what is best for the game going forward.”
Explaining what TGL Golf is
Despite TGL Golf’s lengthy delay, McIlroy stoked excitement around his new venture with Tiger Woods:
“TGL, which is a new high-tech indoor golf league that we’re trying to start in the US with Tiger Woods. It’s going to be Monday night, primetime in America.
“When the NFL stops for the season, we’re going to take that slot on a Monday night, and it’s going to be a kickoff to the week on the PGA Tour. It’s an indoor arena where anything inside of 50 yards you play onto a green that can rotate and the slopes can change.
“Anything outside 50 yards, you hit into this massive simulator, which is the size of an IMAX screen – there’s a lot of tech involved in terms of ball speeds, and launch triangles and spin rates, trying to make it an interactive experience for people.
“It’ll be two hours, it’s not as if you must sit in front of your TV for six hours and watch golf like you usually do, it’s fun and fast and different formats.
“Everyone will be mic’d up and it’s more of an entertainment product than pure golf, but something to try to engage a different demographic, and trying to get the younger generation into golf in some way.”
Learning from mistakes at the Masters
Could 2024 finally be Rory’s year at Augusta National?
“I’d love to win the Masters – it’s the only major that I haven’t won. St Andrew’s is where the game started, but Augusta has become this cathedral of golf in some way, and all the greats of the game have won there in the past.
“It’s the only major that we go back to each and every year on the same golf course. It seems like it gets bigger and bigger every year, and it’s the first major of the year too – it’s more hyped up.
“At Augusta too, I sometimes do things I wouldn’t normally do because of what it is and the pressure, and I’m completely open about that – I think I need to embrace it rather than shutting away from it.
“Every time you go back, you learn something different – I’ve had my chances at Augusta before, and every year I take that little bit and try and put it into the next year. After 14 or 15 years of it, you think it’s time to get this done.”
“I was four ahead going into the last day in 2011, and I was one ahead going into the back nine. I was in the final group in 2018, with Patrick Reed. I finished second to Scottie (Scheffler) last year, but I started a long way behind and had a good last day.
“That year (2011), Charl Schwartzel won – he birdied the first and second and eagled the third. I’m starting off and that four-shot lead has gone.
“You just have to be mentally good to snap out of that or refocus back into what you’re doing. If you’ve been to Augusta, you can hear the roars and hear everything happening, and you know that’s different than a lot of other golf courses.”
More preparation before the Masters
McIlroy’s plans ahead of his latest grand slam bid:
“I’m going to play quite a bit. I feel like the schedule on tour is a bit stop, start going into the Masters.
“I went through stats review with my team last week and I’ve got this trend over the last few years where in May, June, July, and August that’s my best stretch of golf. So, if we can just get that into April when the Masters starts, we’ll be good.
“Playing a bit more and being sharper will help, so I’m going to try and play a few more tournaments in the build-up to Augusta.”
The regret of not winning the Masters
So close, yet so far:
“I would be comfortable with not (winning the Masters), but I would look back with a hinge of regret. I’d still look back at my career and be happy with what I’ve done because I never expected to get as far as I have.
“You get to go back to that Champions dinner every Tuesday night at Augusta if you win (the Masters), and there are little things like that I’d miss if I wasn’t to do it.”
Golf must focus on accessibility
Young people are crucial to the future of the sport:
“I think that golf is much more accessible in this country than it is even in the United States or in other parts of Europe.
“We still have a long way to go to increase the accessibility of it, it’s not like you can just bring a football out and play on the road, there is more of an effort to get into it.
“Some of the new things coming through, like Topgolf, are a less intimidating introduction to golf, it’s helpful. Golf clubs have a long way to go, but that mentality is changing, and people are starting to understand that golf is going to be a dying sport if we don’t start to introduce young people into it and bring in the next generation.
“It’s something that golf has struggled with and will continue to struggle with because of the expense to play – clubs, balls, and that sort of stuff.”
Relationship with Tiger Woods
Spending time with the GOAT:
“Tiger Woods was my hero growing up in golf, and we forged a good relationship. Sometimes, people say you don’t want to meet your heroes, but he’s been really good to me over the years and really good with my family – he’s been great with all of us.
“I feel like sometimes he sees me as a little brother in a way, and he can relate to me, and he is trying to help me out.
“I’ve been over to his house a couple of times, and he’ll show me shots, and I feel like I’m really lucky that I’ve been able to learn those things from him and the fact he’s so open with me and wants to share – I don’t feel like he’s like that with everyone.”
Gareth Bale is good at golf
Former Real Madrid star Gareth Bale has made no secret of his love for golf:
“I’ve played with Teddy Sheringham – good player. Gareth Bale – he has the potential to get to scratch, the way he hits the ball he could be a scratch player, but he’s only played for the last few years.
“There is a difference between being able to hit the golf ball well and getting yourself around the golf course and managing your game – that’s the part he’s learning now.”
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