Rory McIlroy has taken a shot at the LIV Golf Invitational Series, insisting that the field for its first event next week isn’t “anything to jump and down about”.
McIlroy, 33, has been consistent in his opposition to the new Saudi-funded, Greg Norman-fronted circuit, ruling himself out of participating in any PGA Tour rival as far back as February 2000.
Speaking ahead of this week’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, the four-time major champion was asked for his thoughts on the field for the LIV Golf opener at the Centurion Club, which was announced overnight.
Let’s just say, he won’t be setting his Sky Box to record it.
“Indifferent is probably the way I would describe it,” said McIlroy. “A couple of surprises in there I think.
“Look, I have some very close friends that are playing in this event in London, and I certainly wouldn’t want to stand in their way to do what they feel is right for themselves. It’s not something that I would do personally but I certainly understand why some of the guys have gone, and it’s something that we are all just going to keep an eye on and see what happens over these next few weeks.
“But I certainly don’t think the field is anything to jump up and down about. Look at the field this week. Look at the field next week in Canada. They are proper golf tournaments.”
There has been speculation that the players who do defect to the LIV Golf Series – amongst them Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Dustin Johnson – could face severe sanctions from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
The prospect of lifetime bans from both circuits, as well as the Ryder Cup, has been mooted in some quarters.
However, despite his opposition to the start-up tour, McIlroy doesn’t believe such punishment would be appropriate.
“I certainly don’t think they should drop the hammer,” he said. “Look, they are well within their rights to enforce the rules and regulations that have been set. But it’s going to end up being an argument about what those rules and regulations are.
“You know, you have some guys in a position where they are literally not guaranteed a job next year. It’s hard to stay in the top-125 out here, especially when you’re a guy in your 40s and maybe you don’t hit the ball as far as you’ve used to.
“As we’ve seen, it’s a young man’s game nowadays. So someone that isn’t guaranteed their tour card next year, another entity comes along and says, ‘We’ll guarantee you this amount for three years, plus you’re playing for a ton more prize money, and you’re playing less events, you can spend more time with your family’.
“I mean, whenever you sit down and look at some of those things, you know, it’s very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position.
“Again, I’m not in that position, and it’s not something that I would do. But you know, you at least have to try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see where they are coming from.”