Rory McIlroy values ​​heritage above money

Rory McIlroy carried the burden of being the next Tiger Woods. He never reached those heights – who could? – but it’s becoming the same thing: the guardian of the long history of golf.

At 33, McIlroy is old enough to play in more than 50 major tournaments, but he is still young enough to compete in them regularly. (Well, three days out of four, but anyway.) That, along with a clear love of the game’s history, gives him a perspective that includes “things were better in good times” and “where my next check is coming from”. from you? ”

With the benefit of that approach – along with four majors, and many millions in career gains – McIlroy has put up his strong flag at the PGA Tour camp, battling the LIV Golf effort.

Speaking on Tuesday before the U.S. Open, and seeing Phil Mickelson more comfortable than he was on the podium a day earlier, McIlroy raised the struggle between the two rides as money and legacy, short-term wealth and richness as one. century history.

“The PGA Tour was created by people who came before us and tour players, like Jack Nicklaus, like Arnold Palmer,” McIlroy said. “They created something and worked hard for something, and I hate all the players who came before us and the hard work they’ve done is just nothing.”

McIlroy also highlighted the Tour’s efforts as a charitable effort, with billions being donated to charities in the United States and around the world. “When you’re talking about the tour and everything that’s going on right now, you have to see a bigger picture than golf,” McIlroy said. “I think I’ve tried to take a broader view of everything, and I think that’s the right thing to do.”

It’s a touching argument, especially for people who haven’t been offered eight- and nine-figure checks for playing golf. But he also struggles against the cold reality: heritage is not the same as money. All the thoughtful speeches about Nicklaus and Palmer, all the soft piano music, and all the dewy images of the streets from the filthy streets, can’t be compared — for many players — to a fat check for easy work.

To his credit, McIlroy — unlike many of the LIV’s strongest critics or ardent advocates — manages to live in a complex world with competitive responsibilities and constant levels of commitment.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and most of the people I’ve met there are very, very nice, but there are bad people everywhere. Evil people from all over the world have done terrible things, ”he said. “Everything is so intertwined today, and it’s hard to separate sport from politics from dirty money to clean money. It’s a very complicated world now. “

However, many of McIlroy’s players, especially the youngsters, lack a luxury: the ability to play for their legacy, not their money. “It means a lot, going back to history and tradition and putting trophies with the legends of the game in your name,” he said. “That’s very nice, and it’s something that money can’t buy.”

Not to worry about Sergio Garcias and Lee Westwoods of the LIV Golf Tour, the players who were successful in the 2000s and 2010s. These players, in McIlroy’s words, “made the bed,” and the chances of contributing to the future of golf are relatively low.

“They would tell themselves that their best days are behind them,” he said. “That’s why I don’t understand guys who are my age going, I would like to believe that my best days are still ahead, and I think there are some of them too. So it feels like you’re on the right track. “

McIlroy declared LIV “dead in the water” in February after Mickelson’s harsh comments about Saudi cruelty forced him into exile for three months. On Tuesday, McIlroy admitted he had lost the mark, but highlighted what had changed so far.

“I was apparently taken aback by the statements of many of the players. I think that’s what I did wrong, ”he said, referring indirectly to players like Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau. “You had people committed to the PGA Tour … I took their word for it, and I was wrong.”

If the rise of the LIV often means that McIlroy, Justin Thomas and other PGA Tour stars will not be able to cope with the notable LIVs, that will be a real loss for the golfer. McIlroy had a memorable fight with LIV teammate Patrick Reed at the 2016 Ryder Cup, and expressed admiration for the way Johnson and DeChambeau have extended and expanded the game. But here he is clearly drawing a line in the sand.

“Heritage, fame, that’s all you have after all,” McIlroy said. “You take everything away, and you stay with how you make people feel and what people think of you. That’s important to me. “

The stand is noble. But will it be enough to influence other players who are tempted by tens of millions of dollars in Saudi Arabia? That’s the existential threat the PGA Tour faces, and that’s the fight McIlroy can make in the rest of his career.

Rory McIlroy speaks to the media at a press conference on June 14, 2022, in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, at the pre-practice round of the US Open in Brooklyn, Massachusetts. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins / Getty Images)

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Contact Jay Busbee at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.

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