European Ryder Cup champions Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are among the LIV Golf players competing in this week’s BMW PGA Championship, much to the chagrin of McIlroy and others who have resisted financial rewards to join Saudi Arabia. Supported splinter series.
During last year’s forgotten European Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, one of the most memorable moments came when McIlroy broke down in tears as he talked about how much he loved his teammates. On Wednesday, he only sighed when asked how what seemed to be a tight bond with Garcia, Westwood and Poulter could survive the fallout from Liv.
“I have no idea,” McIlroy said. “I wouldn’t say I have a lot of relationships with them right now. …But, say, I haven’t done anything different. They’re the ones who made that decision. So I can sit here and keep my head up and say I didn’t do anything different.”
Shane Lowry also said there could be some awkward meetings this week with players he used to be “good friends” with.
“Obviously I haven’t seen them in a long time now,” Laurie said. “Don’t hang out with them anymore.” “Maybe I won’t go out to dinner because we haven’t seen each other. But yeah, there are some boys I shake hands with and some hands I won’t.”
So the feud between players created by LIV shows no sign of healing at Wentworth, with Billy Horschel and Jon Rahm targeting the LIV squad on Tuesday.
LIV golfers who are members of the European Tour are allowed to play at Wentworth while their suspension to play in the opening event of the breakaway series is subject to appeal. Their Ryder Cup status is also subject to legal appeal.
US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick said he was “sick to talk about” the whole situation, but acknowledged that current tensions could make it difficult to include any LIV players in next year’s Ryder Cup squad.
“There’s one person I’d be fine with and playing on the team,” Fitzpatrick said, declining to give the player a name. “But you know, next year is obviously very far away, and there are a lot of things that have to come with the whole situation. So that might change things, change attitudes more, and then maybe make that difficult.”
Next year’s European Ryder Cup team was already affected by LIV Golf when Henrik Stenson was stripped of the captaincy for joining the breakaway series. When his name surfaced at the end of McIlroy’s press conference as the only person to have won the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour and the European Tour race to Dubai – a feat the golfer from Northern Ireland is trying to equal – McIlroy quipped: “Who?”
McIlroy said before the event that it would be “hard to bear” to play alongside Leaf golfers this week, but said he had yet to see most of them at Wentworth.
“My opinion is that they shouldn’t be here, but again that’s just my opinion,” McIlroy said, before turning to the LIV Golf format to only play three rounds instead of four and start at different holes. “But we’re all going to play on the first tee tomorrow and we’re all going to play 72 holes, which is new for them at this point, and then we’ll go from there.”
McIlroy said he walked away from the players’ meeting with European Tour CEO Keith Bailey on Tuesday night, which included golfers from both classes.
“It wasn’t really a situation where I wanted to make myself know who would be in that room,” McIlroy said. “So I kind of took myself out of that and let them destroy it.”
Bailey did not elaborate on what was said at the meeting in his press conference, saying it was “very short and there were a couple of questions from the LIV players that I think we answered.”
Bailey also launched a strong defense of the financial viability of the European Tour – recently renamed the DP World Tour – and its commercial competitiveness.
“It’s easy for the LIV propaganda machine to get sucked down, spreading negative news and misinformation about the poor state of the traditional golf world, including our tour,” Bailey said. “this is not true.”
McIlroy, Fitzpatrick and Horschel all play in the same group on Thursday, so they won’t have to share the tournament with any of the LIV players until at least the weekend.
When asked if it would give him extra motivation to play in the final duo on Sunday alongside a player who joined the Saudi-backed series, McIlroy couldn’t resist one more.
“They will be very tired on Sunday, it will be day four,” he said.