Rory McIlroy, in one sentence, hits Saudi-backed LIV Golf where it hurts


Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot Saturday on the 17th hole at St. George’s.

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Rory McIlroy entertained. And he had fun.

Over the next few weeks, months, and most likely years, you’ll hear a lot about “entertainment.” But wait, you say. Don’t know what show you’re watching when you’re golfing or walking through the door? It’s true. You’re not going to see a dunk or a touchdown, although now you can sometimes see Charles Barkley and Tom Brady. Still, that doesn’t mean you should sit on your birdies and eagles, and that’s the message that will be delivered by this crowd hoping to shake up golf, the LIV Golf Invitational Series. On Saturday, they wrapped up their first-ever tournament, and along the way threw shotgun starts and neon-colored leaderboards that let out video game sounds and big cash prizes.

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Say what you can, but this is all different and makes you curious. But a few things are also at play here. One is that last element, money, which you’ve probably heard of before, but we’ll say it again. LIV’s funding is based in Saudi Arabia, and LIV’s biggest name explained what that means when Phil Mickelson told biographer Alan Shipnuck that his backers were “creepy MF’ers”. Still, thousands of people watched LIV play this weekend, so here we are.

Which then brings us to golf proper. In London, LIV crowned Charl Schwartzel their first ever champion. And CBS’ Jim Nantz described his recent resume as such on Saturday: “Charl Schwartzel with his first victory of any kind in six years, ranked 126th in the world, he was the winner of this 54-hole event on the circuit supported by Saudi Arabia. .” This is where we’ll notice that the lower ranked players often win events, even though Hennie Du Plessis (world #133), Branden Grace (#123) and Peter Uihlein (#327) finished immediately behind Schwartzel. ).

And the competition? At the Canadian Open, the PGA Tour stop this week, the third-round standings on Saturday read: 1, Tony Finau; 1, Rory McIlroy; 3, Justin Thomas; 3, Sam Burns. The top three will all be in the same final group on Sunday. You don’t have to scroll far to find their ranking: Finau is the lowest. At 18 years old.

And the de facto spokesperson for the Tour did the math during this exchange:

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McIlroy Reporter: “With everything that’s happened in the world of golf this week, is there anything that would make a win tomorrow more enjoyable or perhaps more meaningful?”

McIlroy to the reporter: “Not necessarily. Every victory is sweet and every victory is important. I don’t even think personally, for me, it would be great to win, but I think this tournament is still a success. You look at it there today. I mean it’s definitely the best atmosphere of any golf tournament going on this week.

“Yeah, the crowd support is amazing, and yeah, I’m pretty sure what’s going to happen over the last 18 holes here is going to be more entertaining than any golf played this week anywhere else.”

Ouch. That last sentence hits where it hurts. If you’re a LIV fan, it’s got you there. If you’re a PGA Tour member, you’re happy to have McIlroy. And Thomas. And Finau. And Burns. And a hockey-themed viewing area this week at the 16th tee in St. George’s. (They play in Canada, remember.)

The LIV game will improve. US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is entered and will compete in the next event. On Saturday, Masters winner Patrick Reed and fan favorite Pat Perez confirmed their services. If more lesser-known players cashed in, the argument is that more big names might follow.

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On the Tour side, there will not be a world class ranking every week. And his warts are well known. But this Saturday, where, if you believe first impressions are everything and LIV had to capitalize because of it, it was McIlroy who was entertained — by his band at his best.

And Thomas felt… corny. A journalist had asked him this: “At one point today, I think there were seven players in the top 25 of the world rankings at the top of the rankings; it moves a little. What do you think that says about this tournament and specifically the PGA Tour, what it can offer in terms of entertainment? »

“Yeah, that’s really cool,” Thomas said. “Obviously with everything going on – this week was going to be very special regardless – but I think it’s just, I mean it feels, I mean, without looking corny, it makes me makes me pretty happy inside to see that. There’s no other place I would want to play, and that’s just, obviously with a tournament like this and the history that it has and since how long it was played, there was a lot of great past champions and places and drama.

“And it looks like he has potential tomorrow to produce a little more of that and create a little more history.”

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski Editor

Nick Piastowski is an editor at and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories in the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to clear his score. You can contact him about any of these topics – his stories, his game or his beers – at