Patrick Cantlay will ‘ruin’ PGA Tour as Rory McIlroy told to rejoin Policy Board

May 8, 2024

Rory McIlroy’s absence from the PGA Tour Policy Board is bad news for the future of the game, according to one tournament director concerned about Patrick Cantlay’s influence

Rory McIlroy’s failed bid to return to the PGA Tour Policy Board has sparked fears the tour is in serious trouble, with a claim that player director Patrick Cantlay holds too much influence.

McIlroy resigned his place on the board in November amid frustrations with the direction of the tour coupled with a desire to focus more on his own game and personal life. But last month he revealed a U-turn was in the offing after a plea from Webb Simpson.

The 2012 US Open champion wanted to vacate his seat on the policy board on the condition that he could be replaced by McIlroy. The policy board is made up of PGA Tour executives, plus six players including Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Cantlay, and it has been at the heart of merger negotiations with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF).

PIF bankrolls LIV Golf, which sparked a civil war in golf when it launched in 2022 and poached several of the PGA Tour’s top stars. PIF, the PGA Tour and DP World Tour have been in merger negotiations since establishing a framework agreement 11 months ago that would enable the world’s best players to compete together more often.

But a deal is yet to be finalised and McIlroy will play no further part in shaping it in an official capacity. “It just got pretty complicated and pretty messy,” McIlroy said ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship, which starts on Thursday at Quail Hollow.

“With the way it happened, it opened up some wounds and scar tissue from things that have happened before. And I think there was a subset of people on the board who were uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason.”

According to a GolfWeek report on Wednesday, one anonymous PGA Tour tournament director expressed their desperation for McIlroy to return to the inner sanctum of the tour due to Cantlay’s heightened influence and his supposed unwillingness to do a deal with the Saudis.

“We need Rory back on the board,” they said. “Had he stayed on he could’ve neutered Cantlay. He’s the only one with the power to neuter Cantlay. We need Rory to try to keep Cantlay from ruining the Tour. Webb is too nice.”

The source added: “The main thing is Cantlay and we’ve got to get a deal done with the PIF. LIV’s got to go away. If we don’t get a deal done, we’re all —— in the end. We all know it. [Cantlay] is against it. Rory is for it. So let’s get a deal done and get these [guys] put to bed.

“Do any of us want to work with the Saudis, no? But, on the other hand, none of us want to fight against them and their money for the rest of our careers, either. Cantlay is blocking any type of deal they try to put together.”

According to the tournament director, part of McIlroy’s preferred path to clinching a deal between PIF and the PGA Tour would have seen power taken away from players, tasking independent director Jimmy Dunne – a successful businessman and golf fanatic – with negotiating the merger.

They added: “The players should only be voting on what happens inside the ropes and rules and stuff. They are not businessmen. If you have a high school education how the hell can you vote on multi-billion-dollar finance situations and investment properties? They don’t have a clue.”

McIlroy and Cantlay are both in the field for Thursday’s opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, the site of McIlroy’s first PGA Tour victory in 2010. He hopes for a strong week ahead of the PGA Championship on May 16 at Valhalla, where McIlroy won his last major 10 years ago.