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Rory McIlroy Says PGA Tour Players Who Joined LIV Golf Invitational Series Chose the ‘Easy Exit’

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BROOKLINE, Mass. – Rory McIlroy said he was disappointed some PGA Tour players took the “easy way out” and joined rival LIV Golf Invitational Series, and how six-time major champion Phil Mickelson helped create the new circuit.

McIlroy, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday ahead of this week’s US Open at the Country Club, said he understands why aging players have been tempted by millions of dollars signing bonuses from LIV Golf , but that he thinks the younger people who left made a short-sighted decision. by defecting.

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“I get it. Yeah, because a lot of these guys are in their late 40s,” McIlroy said. “In Phil’s case, early 50s. Yeah, I think everybody in this room would think their best days are behind them. That’s why I don’t understand that guys who are the same age as I’m leaving because I’d like to believe my best days are still ahead of me, and I think theirs are too. That’s where I feel like you’re taking the easy way out.

While McIlroy, 33, said he hasn’t lost respect for Mickelson as a player, noting he became golf’s oldest major champion at 50 at the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island , he didn’t like the way Mickelson handled his defection to LIV Golf.

“He won a major championship 13 months ago, probably one of the crowning achievements of his career and one of the most impressive in golf history,” McIlroy said. “As a golfer, I have the greatest respect for Phil. I was disappointed with the way he did what he did, but I think he came back and showed some remorse over the how he handled some things, so I think he learned from that.

Mickelson is taking part in the US Open this week, his first start in the United States since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January. Mickelson and 16 other players who played at LIV Golf’s inaugural event in London last week have been suspended by the PGA Tour.

“Who am I to sit here and teach Phil a lesson in how to do things?” McIlroy said. “He’s had a wonderful career. He’s his own man. He’s a great addition to the peloton this week. Am I disappointed that he took the road he took? I am, but I still respect him enormously.”

McIlroy appeared very disappointed that several players who had previously pledged their loyalty to the PGA Tour, including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Pat Perez, had changed their minds. At Genesis in February, McIlroy said LIV Golf looked “dead in the water” after many of golf’s top players said they weren’t quitting the PGA Tour.

“I guess I took a lot of player statements at face value,” said McIlroy, a four-time major champion whose victories include the 2011 US Open. You had people committed to the PGA Tour, and that’s what the statements were made. People came back to that, so I guess I took them at face value. I took them at their word, and I was wrong.”

McIlroy said he understands why families and friends of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks would be upset that Mickelson and other players are accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in signing bonuses from LIV Golf, which is funded by Saudi Arabia. Public investment fund.

Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.

“Yeah, of course I do,” McIlroy said. “I think everything that’s going on with that [LIV Golf] tour, it legitimizes their place in the world, and I’m sure not all Saudis are bad people. We talk about this in such a general way. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and the vast majority of people I’ve met there are very, very nice people, but there are mean people everywhere. The bad guys who came from that part of the world did absolutely horrible things.”

While McIlroy said it’s hard to separate sports from politics and “dirty money from clean money” in today’s world, he understands why 9/11 survivors and the families of victims are upset.

“It’s a very complicated world right now,” McIlroy said. “I certainly sympathize with those families, and I can’t imagine. I have friends who lost people on 9/11, and that’s a really tragic thing. I sympathize with those families, and I certainly understand their concerns. and their frustrations about it all.”

McIlroy, who is a longtime friend and former Ryder Cup teammates with Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell, who played at LIV Golf’s inaugural event in London last week, refrained from say he was involved in sports for the Saudis.

“I don’t think they’re complicit in it,” McIlroy said. “Look, they all have a choice to play where they want to play, and they’ve made up their minds. My dad said to me a long time ago, ‘Once you’ve made your bed, you lie in it,’ and they’ve made their bed. It’s their decision, and they have to live with it.

McIlroy, at least for now, doesn’t seem willing to join them.

“Because in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do,” McIlroy said. “The PGA Tour was created by people and players on the tour who came before us, like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. They created something and worked hard for something, and I hate to see all the players who have preceded and all the hard work they did turned out to be nothing.”

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