Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas declared the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series “a shame” and “a bummer” on Wednesday for fracturing the sport at its peak.
Along with top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, the pair spoke at the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open, which starts on Thursday in competition with LIV Golf’s debut event outside London.
“It’s a shame that it’s going to fracture the game,” McIlroy said. “The professional game is the window shop into golf. If the general public are confused about who is playing where and what tournament’s on this week and oh, he plays there and he doesn’t get into these events, it just becomes so confusing.
“Everything needs to try to become more cohesive and I think it was on a pretty good trajectory until this happened.”
The upstart series, offering a combined $255-million total prize money for its eight events, has lured such stars as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia.
Multiple reports on Wednesday stated US Major winners Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau will join LIV Golf next month for its first US event.
In the meantime, the PGA has said there will be consequences for those who play in England since the tour refused releases for PGA players to compete in an event opposite this week’s stop at par-70 St George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto.
“It’s a bummer,” said Thomas, an American who won his second PGA Championship last month.
“The decision is theirs, but I just wish it wouldn’t be taking away from the great storylines and things that are going on, on a tour that has been around for a very long time and is in one of the best places it has ever been. It’s just a bummer those guys won’t be a part of it.”
Five of the world’s top 10 are set to tee off at the Canadian Open, which was wiped out the past two years due to Covid-19 issues.
“I would say stuff here’s pretty unaffected,” Scheffler said. “We got the best players in the world. I’m looking forward to competing against them. I don’t really know what’s going on over there.”
Eighth-ranked McIlroy, a four-time Major winner, repeated his PGA Tour support and warned that choices made only for money tend not to work out.
“It’s not something I want to participate in,” he said. “There’s nothing about my schedule or my life or earning or anything I would change.
“Any decision you make in your life purely for money usually doesn’t end up going the right way.
“It’s a weird time in professional golf. We’re just going to have to see how this season plays out and if any other guys decide to go another direction than the established tours and see what the consequences are.”
Thomas, ranked sixth, said he was disappointed in the players who have chosen the new tour.
“I don’t dislike DJ now. I don’t think he’s a bad dude. I’m not going to treat him any differently. He’s entitled to choose as he wishes,” Thomas said.
“It doesn’t make him a bad person. Now, I’m disappointed and I wish that he and others wouldn’t have done it, but that’s their decision.”
McIlroy wasn’t upset either at the players who will be his rivals in next week’s US Open, the US Golf Association having said on Tuesday all LIV Golf players qualified for the Open can play as planned.
“I certainly understand the guys that went. I understand what their goals and ambitions are,” McIlroy said.
“I’m certainly not knocking anyone for going. It’s their life. It’s their decision. They can live it the way they want to. But, for me, I want to play on the PGA Tour against the best players in the world.”
Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes was upset at LIV Golf’s timing opposite the Toronto event.
“It stinks,” Hughes said. “There wasn’t really going to be good timing for that, but as a Canadian, yeah, it’s a bit disappointing.
“I think most of the eyes will still be here. The top part of this field is really great.”
© Agence France-Presse