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You can say a lot of things about Rory McIlroy’s character, but one thing the Northern Irishman does is walk the walk.
Indeed, after spending the build-up to the RBC Canadian Open questioning the motives of his fellow professionals who decided to join the lucrative LIV Golf League, McIlroy then went and won the PGA Tour event in swashbuckling style.
It was the best and perhaps the only way to support his outspoken stance in the wake of such scathing criticism of pros that he once called friends and even teammates at the Ryder Cup.
🗣”Any decision you make in your life that’s purely for money, usually doesn’t end up going the right way”
Rory McIlroy says his stance on the LIV Series ‘has been pretty clear from the start’ 👇 pic.twitter.com/UvmyaGec2f
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 8, 2022
Essentially, McIlroy wasn’t writing cheques he couldn’t cash and his win in Canada would have done an enormous amount of good as far as genuine competition in golf goes now that the state of Saudi Arabia is paying players millions of dollars to effectively just turn up to an event. Winning, in many respects, may fall by the wayside with players set to earning eye-watering sums for participating rather than excelling. This is why McIlroy’s triumph in Ontario was so vital to the integrity of the game of golf as it sent a clear message about having to earn a legacy rather than be given one.
— LIV Golf (@LIVGolfInv) June 9, 2022
Yes, the 33-year-old backed up his statements in an empathic fashion and has acted as golf’s conscience over the last few months, but is McIlroy’s true north to lead from the front, or is he drawn to being generally outspoken when it comes to his thoughts on the game?
Straight hitter but an even straighter shooter
Of course, you can always expect a straight answer from the Northern Irishman which should be praised and not criticized. Indeed, in a world of churned-out PR guff, McIlroy is an almighty breath of fresh air. But the point still stands, he does have a tendency to err on an edgy and candid narrative. You only need to go back to 2016 when he refused to take part in the Olympics and made no apology for doing so given that he, and it’s important to quote here: “didn’t get into golf to grow the game.”
The 21-time PGA Tour winner even went as far as to say that he wouldn’t bother to watch his fellow countrymen play golf at the Olympics.
McIlroy justified this stance by adding that his sole intention was to win majors and not be a poster boy for change. Now, whilst those sentiments aren’t at odds with his take on the rebel-backed golf league given that the 33-year-old has said on numerous occasions that winning majors is the only way to leave a legacy, there is still a bit of an unprovoked needle in his comments from six years ago. Interestingly, the Northern Irishman did change his mind and ended up attending the 2021 Olympics but it is his stinging comments from 2016 that still ring in the ear today.
Saying what he did, it must be emphasized, certainly isn’t committing the cardinal sin but it’s worth keeping in mind that the four-time major winner is no stranger to speaking his mind with regards to what his colleagues get up to in their respective careers.
It goes without saying that McIlroy is well within his rights to express himself but as we’ve just seen, he does have a history of calling out his fellow pros which leaves you wondering about how sincere his stance against the LIV Tour is.
Will the time come for McIlroy to jump ship?
Time will tell but you can be certain that more offers will be made to McIlroy in the future as the LIV organizers try to secure the signature of one of golf‘s biggest names. If anything, the Northern Irishman’s stock will be higher than ever after his win at the Royal Bank of Canada Open, and with only the Masters left to win to complete a career Grand Slam, there is reason to believe that the 33-year-old’s resolute attitude may change in time if he were able to win at Augusta National.
As things stand, the online betting Betway odds, as of the 15th of June, price that eventuality at 12/1 which suggests that a green jacket is well within McIlroy’s grasp. Whether it’s in 2023 or beyond, you do feel that the 33-year-old will top the Masters’ leaderboard one day and when that happens, McIlroy may not feel as dependent on the PGA Tour having realized his dream. At least another way of looking at it is to focus on how McIlroy’s attitude towards the Saudi-led breakaway league softens when he speaks about older players deciding to take up membership. Could he be leaving the door ajar?
Whatever ends up happening, it should, however, be stressed that without McIlroy’s decision to consistently speak out over the last few months, professional golf as we know it may have changed for good.
Rory McIlroy: “Last week in Canada…LIV will never have that. Last week meant something. What they were doing over there meant nothing.” pic.twitter.com/zq4v4nCPkd
— Dan Rapaport (@Daniel_Rapaport) June 14, 2022
In this sense, the golfing world owes McIlroy a debt of gratitude for having the courage of his convictions to take a stand whilst backing up his words with strong actions.
The test now will be to see if the golfer can stay true to his word and not be swayed by the gale-force winds of change that are set to blow in the professional game.