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While it appears every golfer and their dog is being offered vast sums of money to join the rumoured Saudi-backed Super Golf League, one superstar they'll have to do without is Rory McIlroy.
It's been hard to keep up with the speculation that's been flying around the arid desert in the lead-up to the 2022 Saudi International, now an Asian Tour event after it was dropped from the DP World Tour schedule for this year.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Ian Poulter had been offered between $20 million and $30 million to join the breakaway circuit. Fellow Englishman Lee Westwood then told reporters he had signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), all but confirming his signature was also sought by the Saudis.
This week's defending champion and two-time major winner Dustin Johnson appears to be in a similar position to Westwood in that his lips are sealed for the time being, although he did hint that he had received an offer and that it was "not similar" to Poulter's.
A report in Sportsmail then speculated that Bryson DeChambeau was the SGL's main target and that they were willing to pay the American a whopping $135m to front the F1-style circuit. That was before he withdrew after round one, citing a left wrist and hip injury after returning a three-over 73.
Phil Mickelson was also keen to stir the pot, laying the boot into the PGA Tour for its "obnoxious greed" and adding that "pretty much every player in the top 100 in the world has been contacted at some point".
However, try as they might, one superstar name that'll be missing from any future SGL tee sheet is McIlroy's. The Northern Irishman has iterated and reiterated that he has no desire to jump ship and risk tarnishing his legacy for the sake of a quick payday.
Back in May of last year, the four-time major winner called the idea "nothing more than a money grab" and compared it to football's doomed attempt to break from tradition.
He said: "You go back to what happened in Europe with the European Super League in football. People can see it for what it is, a money grab, which is fine if what you’re playing golf for is to make as much money as possible. Totally fine, then go and do that if that’s what makes you happy.
"I’m just speaking about my own beliefs. I’m playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world. I honestly don’t think there’s a better structure in place and I don’t think there will be".
When Greg Norman was announced as CEO of LIV Golf Investments, the start-up company backed by Saudi's sovereign wealth fund and tasked with getting the SGL off the ground, McIlroy added: "That has only hardened my view even more".
But despite admitting he has no desire to play in the Saudi International or be part of any breakaway league, he has defended fellow players' rights to make their own choices, especially those coming to the end of their careers.
"I think we’re independent contractors and we should be able to play where we want to play. It’s an Asian Tour event, it’s an event that has official golf world rankings. My personal choice is not to do that but obviously a lot of players are doing that and I think it’s fair to let them do that.
"It's the competitive integrity to me that's one of the biggest issues here, right. It's like how hard are guys going to compete when they know that they are guaranteed whatever the money is?
"Look, it's a tricky one. Everyone knows that. But as I’ve said before, I certainly don't blame anyone for going and doing it. At the end of the day, it's our job and livelihood. If someone comes and offers you that sort of money, it's hard to say no.
"You obviously want to be loyal to the people who have supported you and helped you along the way. But then you have to think of other things as well, especially guys that are in their forties.
"Their competitive days are not over, but they are certainly coming to an end and it's one last chance to set their family up and kids. It's a big deal. So I think the best course of action for the main tours is to concentrate on what you're doing and doing it to the best of your ability."
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade M1 (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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