Rory McIlroy has defended the partnership between the PGA and DP World Tours after outspoken criticism from LIV rebel Richard Bland.
Amendments to the PGA Tour format for 2024, including limited field events, were confirmed in recent days. Bland, a veteran of the DP World Tour who joined LIV last year, scoffed at the arrangements and made specific reference to the 10 players from Europe who qualify for PGA Tour cards each season. “How does this help the so called strategic alliance?” asked Bland. “The 10 players will have zero chance of getting in these limited field events. Making their chances of keeping their playing rights very difficult. Just proves that the PGA Tour have no interest in this alliance.”
McIlroy, speaking after a second round of 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, offered a contrasting viewpoint. The Northern Irishman said focus should be placed on what is available to golfers on both sides of the Atlantic. McIlroy said: “I think everyone knows this is the place that you want to play golf, right. It is what it is.
“People complain about these 10 cards going to the European Tour players that get on this tour. But if I’m a European Tour player, that’s brilliant. Instead of trying to think about what’s good for the tour, think about what’s good for the players that are on that tour. I think that’s where people need to sort of reframe their mind a little bit.”
The four-time major winner also believes some golfers are perfectly happy to remain competitive in Europe. “I have to be careful about what I say here. There’s a lot of big fish in a small pond in Europe,” he explained. “Then, when they get over here, they find it difficult and they don’t like it. And then they go back to what’s comfortable.”
McIlroy admitted he endorses elevated tournaments – the PGA Tour now has a batch worth $20m – taking place outside of the United States. “The one thing I would like to see going forward with this designated events schedule is trying to get some of those tournaments in the mix overseas,” he added.
On the course and in testing conditions, McIlroy’s performance was impressive from a starting position where he was flirting dangerously with the cut line. McIlroy trails the halfway leader, Kurt Kitayama, by seven.
Jon Rahm, who looked imperious during an opening round of 65, slipped to a 76 and now finds himself just a shot ahead of McIlroy. “Excuse my language, but it’s fucking hard,” said Rahm, who was at least laughing. “It’s firm, it’s fast and it’s blowing 30 miles an hour. It’s a very difficult golf course.”
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