Rory McIlroy pushes for fan-friendly golf: 'If the business does better, we do better'

Rory McIlroy is a big believer in competitive golf, from hole to hole, week to week and year to year. Not everyone on the PGA Tour is.

Rory McIlroy is about as far removed from the average golf fan as you can get, both in skill and stature in the game. But McIlroy is one of the few people speaking openly right now about how golf is effectively abdicating its role as a fan-service organization in favor of vastly increasing the wealth of its players.

A day after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan held a state-of-the-game news conference that was heavy on promises and light on delivery, McIlroy — who has become the de facto voice of the players, whether he wants to be or not — offered up his own perspective on golf's current situation. Many of the world's best players are nowhere near The Players Championship this weekend, now that they're affiliated with the breakaway LIV Golf tour, but McIlroy would like a reunification of some sort as soon as possible.

"I want the train to speed up," he said, "so we can get this thing over and done with."

McIlroy has backed off his highly critical comments savaging LIV and the players who indulged in its riches. He prefers the PGA Tour's more competitive framework, and indeed would like to see it become even more competitive.

"The more churn [of players on and off the Tour] the better," he said. "This is supposed to be the most competitive golf tour in the world, and I think you should need to have to prove yourself over and over again."

He noted that tennis ranks its players on just one year of performance, not golf's two: "It incentivizes the players not to get complacent."

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 11: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on from the practice are prior to THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass on March 11, 2024 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy is a big believer in competitive golf, from hole to hole, week to week and year to year. Not everyone on the PGA Tour is. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images) (Cliff Hawkins via Getty Images)

McIlroy drew some pushback from some of the Tour's rank-and-file members, but to him, that's evidence that the Tour has lost its focus.

"This is the problem with a members' organization," McIlroy said. "Things are created for the members. Then once those things are created, you've got to go sell those things to fans, sponsors, media. To me, that seems a little backwards. I think what needs to happen is you need to create things for the fans, for the sponsors, for the media, and then you have to go sell that to the players, tell them to get on board with that, because if they get on board and we're all part of the business now, if the business does better, we do better. That seems pretty simple to me."

McIlroy tees off in the Players on Thursday morning at 8:35 a.m. ET alongside Jordan Spieth and Viktor Hovland.