Rory McIlroy Dismisses Phil Mickelson's PGA Tour Claim

The World No.2 says no one could logically agree with Lefty's claim that the PGA Tour is "trending downwards"

Rory McIlroy takes a shot in the pro-am before the 2022 CJ Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy has defended the PGA Tour in the wake of LIV Golf player Phil Mickelson’s assertion that it is “trending downwards.”

The Northern Irishman is preparing for his first appearance on the PGA Tour since winning a record third FedEx Cup in August’s Tour Championship. Before teeing it up in the CJ Cup at Congaree, though, the 33-year-old took issue with Mickelson’s comment, saying: “I guess for them to be talking the way they are, it’s bold and it’s, you know, I think there’s a ton of propaganda being used and all sorts of stuff. I certainly don’t see the PGA Tour trending downward at all. All the talent, most, 95 per cent of the talent, is here. You’ve got people like Tom Kim coming through who that’s the future of our game.”

Video: What Is LIV Golf?

Mickelson made the comment ahead of the Saudi-backed venture’s final event of its regular season in Saudi Arabia last week before going even further, saying it “will never be the case again” that the PGA Tour will have “pretty much all the best players.” Despite some high-profile signings to the Greg Norman-fronted organisation, including the six-time Major-winner, the bulk of the world’s best players are still on the PGA Tour, as evidenced by the field for this week’s tournament, which boasts six of the world’s top 10.

McIlroy, who has a chance to regain the World No.1 position from Scottie Scheffler this week, also suggested Mickelson may have only made the comments because of his position as one of LIV Golf’s most high-profile players. He said: “I don’t agree with what Phil said last week. I understand why he said it because of the position he is in, but I don’t think anyone that takes a logical view of the game of golf can agree with what he said.”

McIlroy’s comments come just a day after Jon Rahm was similarly dismissive of Mickelson’s remarks. The World No.5 said: “I really, I really don’t know why he said that. There’s been some changes being made, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going down, right? I truly don’t know why he said that. Don’t know. I really, I really don’t know. I think there’s some great changes being made and great changes for the players on the Tour. I truly don’t know what drove him to say something like that.”

In August, the PGA Tour announced unprecedented changes to combat the LIV Golf threat, including increasing the purses in some tournaments to at least $20m. It has since been reported that a further four tournaments will receive elevated status, bringing the total to 13 as it attempts to offset the exodus of players to the rival organisation.

Meanwhile, LIV Golf has plans of its own involving expanding to a $405m 14-tournament League in 2023. However, McIlroy explained the disruption couldn’t be blamed on the players opting to remain on the PGA Tour. 

He said: “I think the people that have decided to stay here and play these tournaments, they or we haven’t done anything differently than what we’ve always done, right? We’re playing these events, we’re PGA Tour members, we’re sticking to the system that has traditionally been there. The guys that have went over to LIV, they have - they’re the ones that have made the disruption, they’re the ones that have sort of put the golf world in flux right now.”

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.