Like it or not, but Rory McIlroy has emerged as the PGA Tour’s poster boy — even inadvertent primary advocate — in the main tour’s arguments against the start-up LIV Golf Tour and the Northern Irishman, with his eyes set on claiming a fifth career major title at this week’s US Open, has admitted to having been caught out by some of those who decided to follow the money trail to the Saudi-backed venture.
“I guess I took a lot of players’ statements at face value. I guess that’s what I got wrong,” said McIlroy, adding: “You had people committed to the PGA Tour, and that’s what the statements that were put out. People went back on that, so I guess I took them for face value. I took them at their word, and I was wrong.”
McIlroy didn’t name any names, but it didn’t need any rocket science degree to work out that Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, who didn’t play in the inaugural event in London last week but who has since committed to playing the second in Portland, Oregon, next month were among them.
When asked if those who had signed up for the new tour were complicit in sportswashing, McIlroy responded: “I don’t think they’re complicit in it. Look, they all have the choice to play where they want to play, and they’ve made their decision. My dad said to me a long time ago, once you make your bed, you lie in it, and they’ve made their bed. That’s their decision, and they have to live with that.”
For McIlroy, coming off the back of a successful defence in the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday, which gave him his 21st career win on the PGA Tour as he builds his own legacy, this week’s challenge is about getting back on to the winner’s rostrum in a major, something that has evaded him since last lifting the PGA Championship at Valhalla in 2014.
And his regular caddie Harry Diamond is back on the bag, having missed last week’s success — where former Ulster rugby player Niall O’Connor successfully deputised — due to the birth of his second child. Diamond arrived into Boston on Sunday to link up with McIlroy.
“It certainly puts a pep in your step. It gives you a lot of confidence. Going into last week, even coming off Memorial where I didn’t have my best week, I still knew my game was there. I still knew that I was playing well. I think it was the fashion in which I won last week was what gave me the most pride. I got a lead early in the back nine. Lost that lead. Was tied with two holes to go, and then I showed some really good resilience and birdied the last two holes to get the job done.
“I feel everything is certainly trending in the right direction, and I’m happy with where the game is at,” said McIlroy, who has been grouped with Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele for the first two rounds.