Rory McIlroy eyes legacy beyond majors after rejecting LIV Golf

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Rory McIlroy remains staunchly against LIV Golf (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy remains staunchly against LIV Golf (Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy’s ambivalence amid the LIV Golf noise across the pond spoke to the Irishman’s steadfast belief that he is on the right side of history.

Somewhat mellowed at this stage of his career, McIlroy is one of golf’s most fascinating characters and still the PGA Tour’s biggest asset ahead of the first bell for what promises to be a fierce battle against the Saudi Arabia-backed rebel tour.

There have been great waves made in recent days since Phil Mickelson’s controversial comments earlier this year. Dustin Johnson was bought for in excess of $150 million, enabling LIV Golf to show that the door has been well and truly smashed open for others to follow. Bryson DeChambeau evidently seems to have paid attention and is the next big name to be lured by the incomprehensible numbers fluttered in front of him. Undoubtedly this has created uncomfortable momentum, so now we wait for the PGA Tour to finish deliberating and fire their first counterpunch.

But McIlroy, playing at the Canadian Open this week, remains resolute; the four-time major winner has found himself with a unique opportunity to define his legacy way beyond the course.

“It is not something I ever envisage doing,” McIlroy said, reiterating his position to shun the hundreds of millions on offer from Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund (PIF).

McIlroy’s admirable stance to not partake in sportswashing has seen him dismiss those in attendance at Centurion Club this week, insisting that they are only playing for “boatloads of cash” and merely “thinking very short term”.

Those accusations come despite the likes of Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter’s scarcely-believable reasons for signing up, including the attraction of a shotgun start format and the unique team aspect surrounding each LIV Golf event.

Despite what some would describe as a modest return in the majors, considering his mercurial talent, McIlroy has matured in recent years, becoming a leader and a figure who could define one of the most important moments in golf history.

"I was speaking to a few people yesterday and one of the comments was any decision that you make in your life that is purely for money usually doesn’t end up going the right way,” said McIlroy, who was elected last year as the Chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council (PAC).

“Obviously, money is a deciding factor in a lot of things in this world but if it is purely for money, it never seems to go the way you want it to, and I’ve had that before a couple of times before in my life.”

Phil Mickelson is headlining the inaugural LIV Golf event at Centurion Club (PA Wire)
Phil Mickelson is headlining the inaugural LIV Golf event at Centurion Club (PA Wire)

McIlroy is not alone, either, with the nucleus of the Tour’s future well set with the likes of Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and, of course, the No 1 player in the world and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler.

LIV Golf will inevitably strengthen its field once it arrives at its next stop in Portland at the end of this month. But like McIlroy, for now, Scheffler is unimpressed by the opposition: “I haven’t really noticed any guys missing, maybe Dustin [Johnson]. We’ve got the best guys in the world out here playing golf. I don’t really know what’s going on there.”

Ian Poulter is playing in the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event (PA Wire)
Ian Poulter is playing in the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event (PA Wire)

So unlike the tarnished reputations of those at Centurion Club, McIlroy wins in the short-term by simply standing pat, underlining his moral boundaries and character while staying loyal to the game’s traditional institution. But the long-term play could enhance his standing in the game yet further should LIV Golf fail to outmuscle the PGA Tour as they anticipate.

Still in the prime of his career, McIlroy hopes to emerge from what he calls “a weird time in pro golf”. Time will tell if his stance elevates him as one of the most important figures in golf history.

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