Rory McIlroy admits he's 'changed my tune' on LIV players returning to PGA Tour

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Almost two years ago, Rory McIlroy wanted no part of those who defected to LIV Golf — he has since changed his stance totally.

McIlroy has lessened his tone against LIV golfers in recent months, but ahead of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, McIlroy appreciated players’ decisions to join the Saudi-backed league.

Back in July 2022, McIlroy told those who left the PGA Tour to “just go over there” and “don’t try and come back and play over here again.” 

On Tuesday at Pebble Beach, he seemed more than welcome to return those players with open arms.

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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot during the pro-am as a preview for the DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 14, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (David Cannon/Getty Images)

“I think life is about choices. Guys made choices to go and play LIV, guys made choices to stay here. If people still have eligibility on this tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try and do something, let them come back,” McIlroy said, via The Guardian. 

Furthermore, McIlroy said he doesn’t believe there should be a punishment for those who want to come back to the PGA, admitting he has “changed [his] tune” on that.

“I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA Tour and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties,” he said. “It would be much better being together and moving forward together for the good of the game. That’s my opinion of it. So to me, the faster that we can all get back together and start to play and start to have the strongest fields possible I think is great for golf.”

McIlroy gave Jon Rahm a soft landing after he headed to LIV for a deal.

Rory and Rahm at Ryder Cup

Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm of Team Europe celebrate following victory with 16 and a half to 11 and a half win following the Sunday singles matches of the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on October 01, 2023 in Rome, Italy.  (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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“It’s hard to sit here and criticize Jon because of what a great player he is and the experiences I’ve had with him. All I would say is that I’ll be disappointed to not play against him more regularly in the future,” McIlroy said shortly after Rahm’s announcement.

“He seems like he wants to live his life the right way. He wants to be a good dad, he wants to be a good husband. You can’t judge someone for making a decision that they feel is the best thing for them.”

Ironically, Rahm previously was critical of LIV, even once saying that $400 million would not change his lifestyle. 

However, amid rumors that an offer reached $600 million, Rahm joined LIV.

Prior to the Ryder Cup, where European LIV golfers are ineligible to play, McIlroy said he felt Brooks Koepka should be on the USA team, which he eventually was — he was the lone LIV golfer in the 2023 event in Rome (Rahm and Tyrell Hatton had not yet joined).

Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm at Ryder Cup

Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm of Team Europe celebrate following victory with 16 and a half to 11 and a half win following the Sunday singles matches of the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club on October 01, 2023 in Rome, Italy.  (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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With Rahm’s departure, McIlroy said the European Tour is “going to have to rewrite the rules for Ryder Cup eligibility.”

“I certainly want Jon Rahm on the next Ryder Cup team,” McIlroy said of the Team Europe hero. Rahm is 6-3-3 in his dozen Ryder Cup matches, including a perfect 4-0-0 in foursome play.

The two leagues are still discussing the deal they announced was coming back in June.

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