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‘Old wounds’ keep McIlroy off PGA Tour policy board
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‘Old wounds’ keep McIlroy off PGA Tour policy board

Rory McIlroy’s return to the PGA Tour Policy Board was once seen as a certainty. Chloe Knott, courtesy of Augusta National

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA | When Rory McIlroy raised his hand to guide the PGA Tour through difficult and slow-moving negotiations with the Saudi Public Investment Fund by rejoining the tour’s Policy Board, he received a surprising “not so quick” response.

What many thought was a certainty is now a new twist in the complicated process of moving the PGA Tour forward as it adapts to a dramatically different landscape.

McIlroy will not rejoin the Policy Board as one of the six player directors and instead Webb Simpson will serve the remainder of his term through 2025.

“I raised my hand to help and it was – I wouldn’t say it was turned down; it was a complicated process to get through to get me back on my feet there. So that’s all fine. No hard feelings, and we’ll all move on,” McIlroy said Wednesday ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship, a $20 million event that begins Thursday at the Quail Hollow Club.

However, it is an unexpected twist in the ongoing swirl of developments surrounding the tour and its attempts to reshape the future. McIlroy resigned from the Policy Board last November and was replaced by Jordan Spieth, an indication of McIlroy’s frustration with the inner workings of the tour’s governing group.

McIlroy surprised many when he indicated his willingness to return with the aim of helping pave the way to an eventual agreement with the PIF and LIV Golf. It didn’t take long for his bid to meet resistance.

“It got quite complicated and quite messy, and I think the way it happened opened up old wounds and scar tissue from things that happened before,” McIlroy said.

“I think Webb staying on is a good thing. I think he has a very balanced voice in all of this, and I think he sees the bigger picture, which is great. “I was afraid if Webb stepped down and I didn’t go in his place, what might happen.” – Rory McIlroy

“I think there was a group of people on the board who may not have been comfortable with me coming back for one reason or another… I think the best course of action is if there are people who are not comfortable feeling with me when I come back, I think Webb will just stay and finish his term, and I think he’s at a point where he’s comfortable with that, and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

It is no secret that Patrick Cantlay, one of the player directors, has played an aggressive role within the Policy Board, and his reported tough approach to negotiations has not gone down well with some.

McIlroy said he has been involved in several discussions about the future of the tour, including a lunch meeting with some player directors at Quail Hollow this week. Just because he is not a member of the Policy Board does not mean that McIlroy will not make his voice heard. He thinks there is room for a solution at some point.

“I’m still optimistic,” McIlroy said. “I think Webb staying on is a good thing. I think he has a very balanced voice in all of this, and I think he sees the bigger picture, which is great. “I was afraid if Webb stepped down and I didn’t go in his place, what might happen.”

Webb Simpson retains his seat on the Policy Board. Logan Whitton, courtesy of Augusta National

Simpson put a positive spin on the latest development in a story that seemingly has no end in sight.

“I think the sentiment was Rory McIlroy. Being the global superstar he is and the powerful voice he has in the game of golf, it would be great to get him more involved. So, you know, in what capacity is he going to be more involved? said Simpson.

“I think three weeks ago we just wanted to get him more involved, and I think I’ve seen support from the guys in wanting to have him more involved and wanting to help… All he’s said to me is, ‘I just want to help if you guys want. me to help.’ So we are grateful that he wants to help. He has, as I said, an important voice and I think he has already had a positive impact in his role over the past week.”

It is approaching the one-year anniversary of the June 6 announcement that the PGA Tour and the PIF had reached a “framework agreement.” It ended several lawsuits, saving both sides millions of dollars in potential legal costs, but it did not lead to a larger settlement.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block is what the game will look like in the future. The PGA Tour likes its structure, and there is little support for including team golf in the January to August schedule, while PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan is said to be committed to making team play part of any agreement.

There are also questions about how players who have joined LIV can return to the PGA Tour. McIlroy has said he would prefer to bring players back together, but there is a faction within the Policy Board that believes there should be sanctions for players who left and were subsequently suspended indefinitely by the tour.

“I think there are always obstacles to a deal of this size, but I know the transaction committee, all the guys at (the Strategic Sports Group, which has committed up to $3 billion to a new profitable company, PGA Tour Enterprises), the PGA Tour, they’re all working day and night to try to overcome some of these roadblocks,” Simpson said.

“And I think it’s normal in any deal that when two sides try to come together, there are going to be things that one side wants and the other doesn’t, and vice versa.”

Apparently the same can be said about the tour’s Policy Board.

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