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Rory McIlroy dispels LIV Golf myth after confirming PGA Tour merger showdown

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Rory McIlroy has endured a rollercoaster of emotions in the year since the PGA Tour and LIV Golf announced a framework agreement to merge, but he has renewed optimism that a deal is possible

The dominant narrative a year on from the “framework agreement” that will see the PGA Tour and LIV Golf merge is that progress has been minimal, but Rory McIlroy dispelled that notion ahead of the first in-person meeting between the two sides on Friday.

McIlroy is part of the PGA Tour’s Transaction Committee, which will meet with the LIV’s bankroller the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) in New York City in what could be a significant step towards a final deal being reached to reunify professional golf.

Rory McIlroy dealing with another distraction on eve of PGA Championship -  The San Diego Union-Tribune

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Deadlines to complete the merger have been missed over the past 12 months, prompting frustration and numerous resignations from the PGA Tour Policy Board, and creating a sense that the chances of a deal being done were declining. McIlroy himself was highly pessimistic about the situation when Jimmy Dunne quit the policy board ahead of the PGA Championship last month, with Dunne implying the players on the board had become too powerful and his vote was “superfluous”.

But McIlroy painted a very different picture as he competes in The Memorial Tournament this week, revealing the transaction committee has been meeting three times a week since it was formed in May. And he says it will be the tour’s business chiefs – including Liverpool owner John W. Henry – who will be leading the way in talks on Friday, rather than the players on the board – himself, Adam Scott and Tiger Woods.

“There’s going to be people in that room on the PGA Tour side who are going to take the lead,” he told Sports Illustrated. “And it’s not going to be Adam, Tiger or I. That’s going to be Jay [Monahan], Joe Gorder, Joe Ogilvie, John Henry. It’s going to be the business guys. We’re there to maybe give a perspective from a player’s point of view.

“This is a negotiation about an investment in the PGA Tour Enterprises, this is big boy stuff. And I’ll certainly be doing more listening than I will be doing talking.”

McIlroy revealed he was willing to fly to New York from Ohio after his second round at Muirfield Village on Friday, but instead, he has decided to join the meeting via video call. His renewed energy for merger talks will inspire confidence that a deal is within reach, ending golf’s two-year civil war.

The 35-year-old, once among the biggest critics of the breakaway tour, admits his stance has “softened” and the Saudi-backed circuit is now part of the furniture in professional golf. McIlroy hopes for a solution that will enable the best players in the world to compete against each other more often, but he admits finding a tournament schedule that satisfies all parties is a big obstacle that needs to be overcome.

“I certainly don’t see in the next couple of years LIV slowing down,” McIlroy said. “They’re buying office space in New York. They have over 200 employees. I don’t see a world where – and I haven’t heard any of those guys say that they don’t want to play over there either, right? You’ve got guys who are on contracts until 2028, 2029.

“Looking a few years down the line, LIV is going to continue to sort of keep going down its path. But hopefully with maybe more of a collaboration or an understanding between the tours. Maybe there is some cross-pollenation there where players can start to play on both. I guess that will all be talked about in the coming weeks.”

“The only thing is there are so many tours and so many golf tournaments. There are only a certain amount of weeks in the year. That’s the complicated part. Trying to figure out which tournaments go where, when do we play them, how many players, what players.”

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