When it comes to his stance on LIV Golf, Rory McIlroy is backtracking a bit.
During an appearance on the “Stick to Football” podcast that published Wednesday, the four-time major champion said he regretted his comments that criticized the golfers who defected from the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed LIV tour over the past couple of years.
“I think, at this point, I was maybe a little judgmental of the guys who went to LIV Golf at the start, and I think it was a bit of a mistake on my part because I now realize that not everyone is in my position or in Tiger Woods’ position,” McIlroy said during the podcast.
“We all turn professional to make a living playing the sports that we do, and I think that’s what I realized over the last two years. I can’t judge people for making that decision.”
McIlory, 34, had previously been an ardent defender of the PGA Tour and routinely criticized the players and executives who helped make LIV Golf a possibility.
Bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, LIV Golf offered astronomical sums to a handful of the sport’s biggest names — including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson — to poach them from the PGA Tour, which initially suspended the defectors.
Critics of LIV Golf have accused the Saudi government of using the franchise as a form of “sportswashing,” or a way to improve their nation’s reputation by hosting a prestigious sporting event, or financing a popular team or league.
Recently, the No. 3 player in the World Golf Ranking, Jon Rahm, announced that he was making the move to join LIV Golf, starting with the 2024 season, in a deal that is reported to be worth around $500 million.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve lost the fight against LIV, but I’ve just accepted the fact that this is part of our sport now,” McIlroy said on the podcast. “Competition is good to help improve the sport of golf overall, but the PGA Tour competing with LIV and the Saudis’ money is completely unsustainable. You’re never going to win a fight if you’re going money for money, because we’ve seen that in other sports where no one is spending money like the Saudis.”
After years of contention and posturing against each other, the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour in June 2023 announced a partnership that would join all three leagues into a single operation. The organizations had set a Dec. 31 deadline for the specifics of the deal to be finalized, but it was not completed in that timeframe; on Sunday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan sent players a memo that said “meaningful progress” had been made and that talks would continue.
“I don’t begrudge anyone for going and taking the money and doing something different, but don’t try to burn the place down on your way out,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s just created this division that will hopefully stop soon because I think it’s the best thing for golf too.”
Contributing: Tom Schad
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rory McIlroy backtracks on ‘judgmental’ criticism of LIV Golf