Tour commissioner Jay Monahan wrote to all PGA playing members on Tuesday to outline how ‘elevated’ events would operate with reduced fields and no cut-off mark, regulations will appear to copy the format used by the Saudi-backed venture. Indeed, rebel players like Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have both taken aim at Monahan and co on social media, implying the move is essentially imitation.
The latest saga in the sport’s civil war comes amid players awaiting the outcome of February’s arbitration hearing to decide if LIV players can enter DP World Tour events. A US lawsuit, with both LIV and the PGA Tour taking action against each other over alleged monopolising of competition, is also ongoing.
McIlroy has been one of the most vociferous critics of the LIV concept, with he and Tiger Woods teaming up to form their own TGL venture. The virtual golf league will run alongside the PGA Tour next year, in a bid to attract a new audience to golf.
But he’s also admitted that LIV’s financial power, and subsequent high-profile signings, have forced action: “The reason we’re making these changes is because, like it or not, LIV have exploited maybe some weaknesses of what the PGA Tour framework was and we’re trying to do things to rectify that,” he told the Golf Channel.
Critics have suggested that reduced fields for the bigger tournaments will freeze out lesser players on the tour, and deny them the opportunity to make meaningful money. But the Northern Irish star insisted that meritocracy was crucial to the format.
Insisting people were currently analysing off “limited information,” he added: “Once it’s explained people will see that this is built on meritocracy and guys having hope that they can play their way in to these designated events.”
The 33-year-old also outlined that those privileged enough to participate in those events would have to perform in order to secure a place the following year: “To have that churn at the bottom that if you don’t perform you’re out, that’s a really important part of this.”
This week though, McIlroy’s main focus will be on returning to the spot of world No 1 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Him, Jon Rahm, and Scottie Scheffler will all tee off at Bay Hill vying to take the position by Sunday night.