Rory McIlroy was reportedly involved in an angry exchange at a meeting of PGA Tour players as commissioner Jay Monahan attempted to justify the shock declaration of peace in golf’s civil war.
McIlroy and Tiger Woods had established themselves as the biggest supporters of the PGA Tour in its battle with LIV Golf, but were both kept in the dark about the stunning deal announced on Tuesday.
Fellow players reacted with surprise and a sense of betrayal at the news that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour were merging their commercial operations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which bankrolls LIV Golf.
The announcement came after 12 months of unprecedented disruption in the men’s professional game following the launch of LIV, which held its first event from June 9-11 in 2022 in Hertfordshire.
Monahan faced calls to resign at a 75-minute players’ meeting which he described as “intense and certainly heated”, with his previous comments that anyone who took LIV money would never play on the PGA Tour again cited and greeted with applause, according to former player Johnson Wagner.
Golf Channel reported that Wagner had access to an audio feed of the meeting and that McIlroy told world number 227 Grayson Murray to “just play better” as Murray criticised Monahan. It was not immediately clear what prompted McIlroy’s remark.
Murray responded by telling McIlroy to “f*** off”, although another player, Wesley Bryan, later confirmed the exchange on social media before adding: “They were cordial and pleasant post meeting.
“We chatted as a group of players and we were laughing about the comment. No beef or hard feelings either way.”
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the DP World Tour on today's landmark agreement between DP World Tour, PGA TOUR and PIF. pic.twitter.com/ezV07DQKnQ
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) June 6, 2023
Monahan accepted that he will be labelled a “hypocrite” but insisted the players who remained loyal to the PGA Tour had made the right decision.
“They have helped re-architect the future of the PGA Tour, they have moved us to a more competitive model,” Monahan said.
“We have significantly invested in our business in 2023, we’re going to do so in ’24. (But) we’ve had to invest back in our business through our reserves. Between our reserves, the legal fees, our underpin and our commitment to the DP World Tour and their legal fees, it’s been significant.
“But this puts us in a position where we’ve got capital that we can deploy to the benefit of our members and through our tournaments, and it gives us capital to deploy in growth businesses that ultimately will generate a return that we’ll reinvest in our players.”
Asked if the likes of Woods and McIlroy would be compensated for turning down lucrative offers from LIV, or whether those who took massive pay-outs to join the breakaway would have to pay that money back, Monahan said: “I think those are all the serious conversations that we’re going to have.
“Ultimately everything needs to be considered. Ultimately what you’re talking about is an equalisation over time and I think that’s a fair and reasonable concept.”