PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy says PGA Tour is 'in a worse place' today

LOUISVILLE — Rory McIlroy didn't address the elephant in the room in a press conference on Wednesday, declining to talk about his impending divorce in even the most general possible terms, except to say that "I'm ready to play this week."

The bigger elephant in the room, though — the state of professional golf as a whole — well, McIlroy took on that beast head-on, and hurled it right into the laps of those players who insist that there is no cause for alarm and all is well.

Monday night news broke that PGA Tour board member Jimmy Dunne, the architect of the Tour's initial agreement with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, had resigned from the board. Dunne expressed frustration that there had been "no meaningful progress" toward any kind of deal to build for golf's future, and indicated that his role was now "superfluous."

Tuesday, the players whom Dunne effectively faulted for halting any progress fired back. Tiger Woods, one of the players advising the Tour, indicated that "we're making steps, and it may not be giant steps, but we're making steps." Jordan Spieth, another Player Advisory Board member, added, "In general everyone on our side, I believe, are rowing the boat the right direction together."

Wednesday, it was McIlroy’s turn. He called Dunne’s resignation “a huge loss for the PGA Tour, if they are trying to get this deal done with the PIF and trying to unify the game.”

McIlroy noted that Dunne had been a go-between with the Tour and the PIF, and that Dunne had enjoyed “warmth” from the PIF side of the dealings. McIlroy added that his confidence that a deal could be reached was already “as low as it had been” even before the news of Dunne’s departure.

“It's really, really disappointing,” McIlroy said. “I think the Tour is in a worse place because of it. We'll see. We'll see where it goes from here and we'll see what happens.”

McIlroy himself has run the complete gamut on the question of Saudi involvement in golf, first fighting and raging against it and now accepting it as an inevitability. He had been on the Players Advisory Council but resigned last November; he failed in his attempt to get back on the board last week, but was later named to a separate committee tasked with negotiating with the Saudis directly.

Regardless of the level of McIlroy’s involvement, the facts now speak for themselves: There is no agreement in place, despite two separate self-imposed deadlines (Dec. 31, 2023 and prior to the Masters). LIV Golf continues to shore up its operations, investing in infrastructure and executive staffing. And when the initial round of LIV player contracts runs out later this year, it’s likely LIV will make another run at poaching PGA Tour players, the way it did with Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton last year.

Golf’s civil war is going to end one day. But it’s becoming less likely that ending will come on the PGA Tour’s terms.

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