Rory McIlroy Says Players Leaving for LIV Golf Are 'Taking the Easy Way Out'

Adam WellsJune 14, 2022

BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 14: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland speaks to the media at a press conference during a practice round prior to the US Open at The Country Club on June 14, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy, who has been an outspoken critic of the new LIV Golf International Series, offered his perspective on players who are joining the upstart circuit.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, McIlroy said he could understand why the aging stars made the move but younger players who joined LIV are "taking the easy way out" for the immediate payday.

"In Phil's case, early 50s. Yeah, I think everyone in this room would say to themselves that their best days are behind them. That's why I don't understand for the guys that are a similar age to me going because I would like to believe that my best days are still ahead of me, and I think theirs are, too."

The PGA Tour suspended 17 players who competed in the inaugural LIV Golf event in London this past weekend.

"It's my job to protect, defend and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, our partners and our fans," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said on CBS Sports during the final round of the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday (h/t ESPN's Mark Schlabach). "And that's exactly what I did. And I don't think it was a surprise to anybody, given how clear I had been about how we were going to handle this situation."

Monahan noted players who participate in future LIV events will face the same discipline as the 17 players who have already been suspended.

McIlroy and Justin Thomas told reporters last week they don't intend to jump ship from the PGA Tour to LIV.

"I think my stance on it has been pretty clear from the start," said McIlroy. "It's not something that I want to participate in. I certainly understand the guys that have went. I understand what their goals and their ambitions are in their life. And I'm certainly not knocking anyone for going. It's their life, it's their decision. They can live it the way they want to."

Thomas said "people are entitled to choose as they wish," but he knows "the PGA Tour is the best place to play in the world."

LIV Golf has generated controversy because it's funded by the Saudi Arabian government. The Saudi government has been accused of various human rights violations, including United States intelligence finding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Per Somayeh Malekian and Guy Davies of ABC News, the Saudi government ordered the execution of 81 people in March, "with some of the men executed for allegedly taking part in anti-government protests."

Per Karim Zidan of NBC News, Saudi Arabia has been making a "strategic investment in sports and entertainment events" dating back to at least 2016 in an attempt to sportswash the country's history of human rights violations away and help reduce its dependence on oil.

Last month, LIV Golf announced it received another $2 billion investment from the Saudi Arabian government to host two additional tournaments in 2023 and become a full-fledged breakaway tour in 2024.

Charl Schwartzel won the inaugural LIV event in London. The 37-year-old made a total of $4.75 million for his individual win and an equal split of the $3 million prize for winning the team competition.

The suspended players will be eligible to compete in the U.S. Open this week since the tournament is operated by the United States Golf Association, a separate governing body than the PGA Tour.

McIlroy has been paired with Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open.