More players than expected have jumped to the LIV Golf Invitational Series, but the PGA Tour has still retained the ones it needs the most. Two of those, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, will tee it up at the RBC Canadian Open this week where McIlroy is the defending champion. As two of golf’s foremost ambassadors and two of the great modern champions, they were asked about the inaugural LIV Golf event in London this week.
Unsurprisingly, they had plenty to say. Thomas went first and focused on the people — some of whom are friends — playing in London for the Saudi Arabian government-funded $25 million purse this week.
“It’s a bummer. I mean, I think a lot of us are — I don’t know if annoyed or tired is the right way. I mean it’s just one of those things,” said Thomas. “I’ve thought a lot about it and it’s like, look, like, people are entitled to choose as they wish.
“I don’t dislike D.J. now. I don’t think he’s a bad dude. I’m not going to treat him any differently. It’s, like, he’s entitled to choose as he wishes. I think that the day and age that we live in now, it’s just so negative that you see it in everything. Sport, politics, whatever it is, it’s, like, if you disagree with someone you just feel that you’re entitled to, like, hate them and talk bad about them and just bash their decision, when everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, you know what I mean?
“Like I said, it doesn’t make him a bad person. Now I’m disappointed, and I wish that he and others wouldn’t have done it, but that’s their decision. I’ve said it all along, it’s like guys can do as they wish. If they want to go, they can go. If they want to stay, they can stay.
“Selfishly, I think and I know that the PGA Tour is the best place to play in the world and it’s just the decision is theirs and it is what it is, but … I wish that it wouldn’t take away or I wish it wouldn’t be taking away from the great storylines and things that are going on on a Tour that’s been around for a very long time and is in one of the best places it’s ever been. It’s just a bummer that those guys won’t be a part of it.”
It’s an extraordinary viewpoint that J.T. has evolved into as he’s grown up on Tour, one that takes a lot of humility and good perspective to espouse. Thomas, it seems, has taken away a few things from McIlroy’s press conferences, which have been must-see over the past several years. He was again on point with the LIV situation on Wednesday.
“I think my stance on it has been pretty clear from the start,” said McIlroy. “It’s not something that I want to participate in. I certainly understand the guys that have went. I understand what their goals and their ambitions are in their life. I’m not, certainly not knocking anyone for going. It’s their life, it’s their decision, they can live it the way they want to.
“But for me I want to play on the PGA Tour against the best players in the world. And I think for me, speaking to a few people yesterday and one of the comments was … any decision that you make in your life that’s purely for money usually doesn’t end up going the right way. Obviously money is a deciding factor in a lot of things in this world, but if it’s purely for money it’s not, never seems to, you know, it never seems to go the way you want it to.”
Bryson DeChambeau was reportedly given $100 million to make the move, which means that LIV Golf has (reportedly) spent nearly half a billion dollars on DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.
“And I’ve had that before a couple of times in my life, and there’s other things that are a part of it, too,” McIlroy continued. “But it’s a weird time in professional golf, and I said it a couple weeks ago, we’re just going to have to see how this season plays out and if any other guys decide to go another direction than the established tours, I guess, and see what the … consequences are.
“For me right now, I can only speak personally, it’s not something that I envision ever doing. I’m happy playing on the PGA Tour and I have a nice schedule that I can pick for myself. I can spend a lot of time at home with my family if I want to, prioritize the majors, and yeah, there’s nothing about my schedule or my life or my earning or anything that I would change.”
In a week that’s not been great for the PGA Tour, this was a silver lining. Two of the most important people in golf riding for the Tour’s future. Whether that’s sufficient to buoy the Tour as it attempts to ride out this storm and remain wholly intact remains to be seen, but after several days of absorbing blows, the folks running the Tour have to find some solace at who they still have in their corner.