Aren’t they allies? Tiger Woods voted against Rory McIlroy returning to the PGA Tour board.

May 9, 2024

Tiger Woods votes against Rory McIlroy returning to PGA Tour board for LIV peace talks

Northern Irishman had earlier likened Saudi-PGA Tour negotiations to the Good Friday Agreement

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods will be playing in next week’s PGA Championship CREDIT: Getty Images/Harry How

Tiger Woods voted against Rory McIlroy rejoining the PGA Tour board’s negotiations to strike a peace deal with the Saudi funders of the LIV breakaway league in a sensational move which could have notable implications for the future of the professional game.

Woods has long been a close ally of McIlroy. They live nearby in Jupiter, South Florida and have been friends who play golf socially. But when the Northern Irishman recently agreed with Webb Simpson to replace him as one of the player directors who will ultimately decide if there is a merger with the kingdom’s £60 billion Public Investment Fund, his re-inclusion was apparently blocked by a group which included Woods.

Woods remains the biggest name in golf. But as a more active player who has become central in the LIV civil war, McIlroy is a big figure in his own right. Woods and McIlroy have jointly-launched a multi-million dollar golf indoor league and any tension would further light up a landscape already in carnage.

Both are playing in next week’s US PGA, the second major of the season, and as if it was not febrile enough with the LIV players competing and one of the rebels, Brooks Koepka, defending, this will add to the intrigue and recrimination.

Telegraph Sport has learnt that the five player directors – other than Simpson – had the power to decide on McIlroy’s re-inclusion and that Woods, along with the supposed ringleader Patrick Cantlay who is against Saudi investment, formed the resistance and won the day 3-2.

McIlroy did not reveal any identities when asked on Wednesday why his re-institution did not get through, but acknowledged there was a collective against him.

“There was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason,” McIlroy said at Quail Hollow, where he was preparing for this week’s Wells Fargo Championship. “I think it just got pretty complicated and pretty messy and I think with the way it happened, I think it opened up some old wounds and scar tissue from things that have happened before.”

McIlroy had quit the board late last year citing personal and professional reasons. Yet after the board secured more than £1 billion of private US investment at the same time as witnessing barely any progress made in PIF talks, McIlroy declared that, as he would “rather the men’s golf professional landscape survived this, I’m happy to do my bit”.

McIlroy was initially perhaps the most vocal critic of LIV Golf and even after merger plans were prospectively agreed last summer, he insisted he would rather retire than play on the breakaway circuit. But he has softened his stance and has declared he is “impatient” to get a deal done before more big names are lured to LIV, and he believes his sport can take inspiration from the remarkable events in his own country before the turn of the Millennium.

“I think we’ve got this window of opportunity to get it done, because both sides from a business perspective I wouldn’t say need to get it done, but it makes sense,” McIlroy said.

“I sort of liken it to when Northern Ireland went through the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement, neither side was happy. Catholics weren’t happy, Protestants weren’t happy, but it brought peace and then you just sort of learn to live with whatever has been negotiated, right?

“That was in 1998 and 20, 25, 30 years ahead, my generation doesn’t know any different. It’s just this is what it’s always been like and we’ve never known anything but peace. It’s my little way of trying to think about it and trying to make both sides see that there could be a compromise here.”

McIlroy did not name any individuals who resisted him rejoining the board and insisted that “there are no hard feelings”. He also emphasised it would have been a “complicated process” for him simply to be a direct substitute for Simpson.

McIlroy has made no secret of his strained relationship with Cantlay, saying “we see the world quite differently” and recently had an exchange of views with Spieth after the American suggested the Tour’s multi-billion dollar deal with Strategic Sports Group meant investment from the PIF might not be needed.

Woods made similar comments. “Financially, we don’t [need that] right now,” he said about the Saudi investment following the SSG injection of cash. However, after a player directors’ meeting with PIF governor and LIV chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan two months ago, Woods described the talks as “positive”. That adjective seemed dubious on Wednesday.