Rory McIlroy has praised the “common sense” approach of a judge who blocked three LIV rebels from featuring in the PGA Tour’s end‑of‑season playoff series.
McIlroy admitted there is “resentment” among the Tour’s membership towards those who have taken to the courts to try to remain in that domain while also featuring in the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Series.
On Tuesday in California, Judge Beth Labson Freeman said Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones were “well aware of the consequences” of accepting LIV’s millions against the wishes of the PGA Tour and had not suitably “made their case” to have suspensions lifted.
The three players had otherwise qualified to take part in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which begin this week in Memphis. Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Bryson DeChambeau have not but are part of a wider antitrust action against the Tour which is unlikely to be heard until next August.
McIlroy said: “From my vantage point, common sense prevailed and I thought it was the right decision. Now that that has happened, I think it just lets us focus on the important stuff, which is the golf. We can all move forward and not have that sideshow going on for the next few weeks, which is nice.”
Numerous LIV converts including Dustin Johnson, Sergio García and Brooks Koepka are notable absentees from any legal action. “I don’t begrudge anyone for going over to play LIV or taking guaranteed money,” McIlroy said. “If that’s your prerogative and what you want to do, totally fine.
“I think where the resentment comes from, from the membership of this tour, is the fact that they want to try to get back in here with no consequences. Anyone that’s read the PGA Tour handbook or abided by the rules and regulations, that would feel very unfair to them. It was a good day for the Tour and for the majority of the membership yesterday.”
Pressed on whether he felt there was a point at which golf’s civil war cranked up a notch, McIlroy replied: “Yeah, and it was when that lawsuit was filed. And the thing that I would say, I certainly have a little more respect for the guys that haven’t put their names to the suit. So yeah, I mean, it’s become a little more personal because of that.”
In her closing remarks Freeman said: “It appears to the court that the LIV contracts, negotiated by the players and consummated between the parties, were based upon the players’ calculation of what they would be leaving behind and the amount the players would need to monetise to compensate for those losses.”
Justin Thomas, who like McIlroy sits firmly on the side of golf’s traditional ecosystem, expressed those sentiments in more straightforward terms. “Those guys were given an opportunity to go play and just go play,” the world No 7 said. “You can have your cake, but you don’t need to eat it, too. And they got their fair share of a large, large amount of cake. Go eat it on your own means. You don’t need to bring it on to our tour.”
Poulter and other DP World Tour – formerly European Tour – members who have joined LIV are still able to play on that circuit after sporting arbitration placed a stay on any sanctions against them pending a full hearing.
Cameron Smith, the Open champion, is widely expected to switch to LIV as part of a push into Australia. Hideki Matsuyama, who has also been continually linked to the breakaway scheme, pulled out of the PGA Tour’s playoff opener with a neck injury.