The world No 2 has been perhaps the most vocal opponent to the LIV Golf League since it split the game with its formation 18 months ago.
Yet having described himself as “the sacrificial lamb” when Sawgrass HQ announced in June, to worldwide shock, that it had forged a “framework agreement” with its supposed enemy, McIlroy has acknowledged it would be better for the Public Investment Fund – the Kingdom’s $600 billion (£490 billion) sovereign wealth fund – to be investing “positively rather than negatively” in the growth of the game.
That appeared to be the PGA Tour’s direction before reports from America indicated that billionaire US investors were lining up to beat the Saudis to the punch and grab the slice of the majority spoils themselves.
One dispatch this week claimed that the Tour has lined up five investors, including Fenway Sports Group – the owners of Liverpool FC, which would put up the money to ensure the PIF bounty would be supplanted.
If that were to happen, the Saudis would still have LIV and all of its destructive abilities. Phil Mickelson, the six-time major champion who is maybe the most notable rebel captured in a raid totalling more than $2billion, is certain that fresh golfers will be recruited in further nine-figure raids.
McIlroy can see this looming storm and clearly wants it to be pacified, saying he does not want the US circuit to go solely with home investors and fracture the sport.
“I feel like we’ve got a fractured competitive landscape right now and I would prefer if everyone sort of got back into the same boat. I think that’s the best thing for golf,” the four-time major champion told CNBC.
“I would hope when we go through this process, the PIF are the ones that are involved in the framework agreement. Obviously, there’s been other suitors that have been involved and offering their services and their help. But hopefully, when this is all said and done, I sincerely hope that the PIF are involved and we can bring the game of golf back together.”
All those who criticise Mcilroy should know that he made these comments on Monday at a press conference for the “Boston Common” team that he will captain in next year’s inaugural TGL (an indoor league playing on simulator machines, screened live on TV and featuring 24 teams) and that is part-owned by FSG, one of the main companies being linked with supplying the PGA Tour with the necessary finance that could mean that the PIF deal is never realised.
However, the fear is that LIV would then again wave billions in front of the PGA Tour superstars and that the likes of Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Cam Smith et al would soon have more big-name companions who could not resist the lure.
The TGL is Tiger Woods partnering McIlroy in a firm called TMRW Sports that has the backing of the PGA Tour and is widely viewed as a counter to LIV, with most of the top, non-LIV stars being signed up to the made for TV specials that will take place on Mondays or Tuesdays. McIlroy’s Boston Common team also includes Keegan Bradley, Tyrrell Hatton and Adam Scott.
TGL will, of course, be strange in a golf sense, but McIlroy was keen that the upstarts should not be compared to LIV. “It’s meant to be complementary, this is not meant to be disrespectful in any way,” he said at the launch. “Tiger and I, one of the first things we said is ‘if we are going to do this we are going to have to partner with the PGA Tour in some way and make this complementary’.”