Rory McIlroy has delivered what may well prove to be a fatal blow to plans for a breakaway golf tour by stating he has no interest in taking part.
The Premier Golf League hoped to coax McIlroy and leading players away from the PGA and European tours with eye-watering sums of guaranteed cash – as linked in part to Saudi Arabia – and a model akin to Formula One. Plans include 18 tournaments per year, of 54 holes, and a team element. Discussion over the proposal has dominated the start of this golfing year and McIlroy, who was previously circumspect regarding it, used pre-tournament duties for the WGC Mexico Championship to issue a firm rebuttal.
“The more I’ve thought about it, the more I don’t like it,” said the world No 1. “The one thing as a professional golfer in my position that I value is the fact that I have autonomy and freedom over everything that I do. I pick and choose; this [week] is a perfect example. Some guys this week made the choice to not come to Mexico. If you go and play this other golf league, you’re not going to have that choice.
“I read a thing the other day where it said if you take the money they can tell you what to do, so if you don’t take the money, they can’t tell you what to do. I think that’s my thing, I’ve never been one for being told what to do, and I like to have that autonomy and freedom over my career. I feel like I would give that up by going to play this other league.
“For me, I’m out. My position is I’m against it until there may come a day that I can’t be against it. If everyone else goes I might not have a choice, but at this point I don’t like what they’re proposing.”
Intriguingly, McIlroy also suggested the new domain will be of little interest to Tiger Woods. “Tiger is 44,” the Northern Irishman said. “He’s got two young kids. He openly said last week he wants to play 12 times a year, this league is proposing 18, so he’s not going to do it.”
McIlroy did concede that top-level golf is “very split” over the prospect. It is, however, likely his sentiment will strike a chord with some of his fellow competitors. Players and representatives have been in regular meetings, with more scheduled for next week during the Honda Classic. Phil Mickelson initially stated he was “intrigued” by the project before appearing to backtrack last week at the Genesis Invitational, where the left-hander said he was “not really ready to talk about” his position.
The Premier League had the ambitious goal of launching in 2022, decades on from Greg Norman failing with a similar scheme. Then, Arnold Palmer was a critic.
“Money is cheap, money is the easy part,” said McIlroy. “It shouldn’t be the driving factor. Look, for some people it is and we’re professional golfers and we’re out here playing golf to make a living, but at the end of the day I value my freedom and my autonomy over everything else.
“I would like to be on the right side of history with this one, just sort of as Arnold was with the whole Greg Norman thing in the ’90s. I value a lot of other things over money and that’s sort of my stance on it at this point.”
Speaking earlier on Wednesday Jon Rahm, the world No 3, claimed to have little knowledge of the Premier League. “I couldn’t tell you what’s going on,” he said. “I had a maybe two-minute conversation with somebody involved in it and that’s about it. I don’t know if I’m in the plans or not. I really have no idea. As of right now since it’s not a reality, I don’t want to waste my time thinking about it too much.”
As if to prove McIlroy and co aren’t exactly paupers as things stand, $1.8m is on offer to the winner in Mexico City. Dustin Johnson defends the title, with 42 of the world’s top 50 in the field.