McIlroy paints grim outlook for PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger with hopes shattered

May 16, 2024

Rory McIlroy says his confidence that a merger deal between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf backer, the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, is at an all-time low ahead of the PGA Championship

A deflated Rory McIlroy admitted his confidence a merger deal between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) will be reached is lower than ever after the resignation of his close ally Jimmy Dunne.

Dunne, a multi-millionaire businessman and golf fanatic, was the man behind the tour’s framework agreement with LIV Golf backer PIF last summer and held a seat on the PGA Tour policy board. But Dunne quit his post on Monday after feeling marginalised due to the introduction of player-directors – a group that includes Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay – took increasing control of the policy board.

In a lengthy letter of resignation, Dunne said “no meaningful progress has been made towards a transaction with PIF” and his vote and role on the policy board had become “utterly superfluous”.

McIlroy himself was denied re-entry to the policy board last week. The Northern Irishman was on the board until November when he quit to focus on his game and family life, but he wished to return amid a sense that talks with PIF were going nowhere.

The 35-year-old painted a grim outlook for the possibility of a merger, admitting his confidence of a deal being done is at an all-time low. Speaking at his press conference on Wednesday ahead of the PGA Championship at Valhalla, McIlroy said the tour is worse off without Dunne involved in negotiations with the Saudis.

“Honestly, I think it’s a huge loss for the PGA Tour if they are trying to get the deal done with PIF and unify the game. Jimmy was basically the relationship – the sort of conduit between the PGA Tour and PIF,” McIlroy said.

“It’s been really unfortunate that he hasn’t been involved for the past few months and part of the reason I think everything is stalling at the minute is because of that. It’s really disappointing and I think the tour is in a worse place because of it.

“We’ll see where it goes from here, we’ll see what happens, but I would say my confidence level on getting something done before last week was as low as it had been, and with this news of Jimmy resigning and knowing the relationship he has with the other side and how much warmth there is from the other side, it’s concerning.”

McIlroy was among the staunchest critics of LIV Golf when it launched in 2022, poaching several top stars from the PGA Tour in the process. But as golf’s civil war has worn on, McIlroy’s stance has softened somewhat, pushing for reunification through a deal with PIF to get the best players in the world on the course together more often.

McIlroy is in the midst of an extremely turbulent time in his life. He has regained his form on the golf course in recent weeks with back-to-back wins at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and Wells Fargo Championship, making him one of the favourites for victory in Kentucky this week.

However, it emerged on Tuesday that the four-time major champion had filed for divorce from his wife Erica Stoll after seven years of marriage less than 24 hours after his dominant victory at Quail Hollow. The moderator of McIlroy’s press conference told reporters he would not be fielding questions about his private life at this time.