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Rory McIlroy PGA Tour shunned

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods take a stand against LIV Golf, PGA Tour-Saudi negotiations continue, golf ratings decline, McIlroy's recent wins.

When the PGA Tour's battle with LIV Golf for power - and the world's best players - became open financial warfare two years ago, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were the biggest stars who stood by the tour. Woods did it by turning down an outrageous amount of money - reportedly more than half a billion dollars. McIlroy did it by saying no amount of money would lure him to LIV and by consistently ripping LIV and the players who did take the huge bucks, among them Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson - all, like him, multiple-time major champions.

"I hate what it's doing to the game of golf. I hate it. I really do," McIlroy said in 2022 after the first batch of players defected to the breakaway LIV circuit - and were suspended by the PGA Tour for doing so. He quickly became the unofficial player spokesman for the tour because of his place in the world rankings and because he was so highly respected within the game. In essence, McIlroy stood in front of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and said, "If you want him, you'll have to go through me."

Then, almost a year ago, Monahan and the Public Investment Fund - which funds LIV and fronts for the Saudi government - announced they had reached an agreement for the PIF to invest in the PGA Tour. McIlroy had knives in his back, and they had been put there by Monahan and the tour.

McIlroy was heard on a tour-sponsored Netflix documentary saying - among other things - "I am almost at the point of like, '(expletive)- it, do whatever you want to do.'" He also said the players had been blindsided by the PGA Tour-Saudi deal, telling reporters, "It's hard for me to not sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb."

A year later, that deal has yet to come to fruition. McIlroy, who had been a member of the tour's policy board for two years, resigned last fall. Although McIlroy said he resigned so he could focus on his family and golf, it seemed apparent he didn't think he could trust Monahan - with whom he had once been close.

But with the PGA Tour-Saudi negotiations clearly dragging, McIlroy said a few weeks ago he would be willing to come back to the policy board. Webb Simpson, one of golf's class acts, instantly offered his spot on the board to McIlroy, only for several other pros to object.

Last week, McIlroy announced he would not be returning to the board. "It got pretty complicated and pretty messy," McIlroy said. He went on to say the sides have "this window of opportunity" to get a deal done.

McIlroy referenced the 1998 "Good Friday" agreement in Northern Ireland - which finally brought an end to the Troubles - as an example of meaningful compromise. "Neither side was happy," he said. "Catholics weren't happy, Protestants weren't happy, but it brought peace, and then you just sort of learn to live with whatever has been negotiated, right?"

McIlroy was then named - along with Woods - to a newly formed subcommittee that is supposed to negotiate directly with the PIF. Just what the tour needs: another committee. And still, anything the tour does will have to be approved by the policy board.

Oh, joy.

Here are the simple facts: Monahan and his various minions have handled this crisis poorly from Day 1 by not taking the LIV threat seriously at first and then panicking into making an agreement with a country that has an appalling record on human rights. Monahan made that point himself, shortly before attempting to go into business with the Saudis.

The entire situation continues to damage the sport. Ratings for the Masters this year were down 20 percent, and some people attempted to blame the winner, Scottie Scheffler, for his supposedly drama-free dominance.

Which was ludicrous. Scheffler did not run away with the tournament until the back nine Sunday. So that wasn't the problem. Apparently becoming the first player aside from Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Woods to win two Masters by 27 wasn't enough of a draw.

And then there's his supposedly vanilla personality. Few golfers have the charisma of Arnold Palmer or Mickelson - or McIlroy. Nicklaus certainly didn't until the latter part of his career. Woods let his golf do most of his talking for years. Tom Watson was the classic (and classy) stoic Midwesterner.

The drop in Masters ratings absolutely was a product of the never-ending PGA Tour-LIV war. The best players are rarely in the same tournaments. Golf fans don't care much about a 54-hole event, no matter who is playing in it. And they don't care much about tour events without all the best players in the world, no matter how much money the tour throws at its so-called "signature events."

Golf, as McIlroy has pointed out, is a mess. Fortunately, through it all, his golf is not a mess. He started slowly this year, never contending in the Masters, the tournament he wants to win most to complete a career Grand Slam. But he has now won twice in three weeks - claiming an event in New Orleans with Ryder Cup teammate Shane Lowry and then running away Sunday in Charlotte to prevail for the fourth time at Quail Hollow, where he won his first PGA Tour event in 2010.

The last time McIlroy won a major was 10 years ago when he claimed the PGA Championship at Valhalla in Louisville - the same place that tournament will be played this week. He was also coming off a victory that year (at Firestone) when he held off Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in the darkness.

Can he end his majors drought this week? He'll have to beat Scheffler, among others, to finally get his fifth major. You can bet a McIlroy-Scheffler duel Sunday would boost ratings.

But, regardless of the outcome, golf will still have serious issues. And the policy board's (and, no doubt, Monahan's) decision to not bring him back is symbolic of why the sport is a dumpster fire. McIlroy said last week that he "put my hand up to help" - and was turned down. How foolish.

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