By Steve Keating
ROCHESTER, New York (Reuters) – Rory McIlroy said he was only focused on the PGA Championship on Tuesday as the Northern Irishman chose few words in response to questions regarding PGA Tour’s feud with the Saudi-bankrolled LIV Golf.
It has been a year since LIV Golf arrived on the scene poaching players disrupting the sport with massive purses and lawsuits that have divided golfers into two camps.
Amid the squabbling McIlroy emerged as the PGA Tour’s most vocal supporter and as a member of the Players Advisory Council a key figure behind the scenes instrumental in rallying players around the circuit’s revamped tournament structure.
But taking on that job came at a cost as McIlroy’s game suffered missing the cut at golf’s two biggest events so far this year, the Players Championship and the Masters.
As the first golfer into the interview tent on Tuesday, McIlroy was asked three questions about LIV Golf.
Two received one word answers, the other six.
Presented with such a platform in the past, the four-time major winner was effusive detailing the PGA Tour’s progress while blasting LIV Golf but on Tuesday demurred.
Asked if going forward it is going to be a conscious thing to try and sidestep the LIV narrative McIlroy was direct and short.
“Yeah”, said the world number three.
Asked to look into a crystal ball on where he thought professional golf will be in three years McIlroy was, as always, polite but blunt.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said.
Asked if he wanted to speculate.
“No,” was the quick reply.
The decision to bat aside all LIV related questions appears to be part of mid-season reboot by the 34-year-old who took three weeks off to refocus following his Augusta disappointment.
It was a decision that meant he forfeited $3 million of his Player Impact Performance earnings for withdrawing from a second designated event.
Twice a winner of PGA Championship, McIlroy appears to still be in a bit of a competitive funk finishing in a tie for 47th in his only start since the Masters but believes he is close to the form needed to win another major.
“It wasn’t really the performance of Augusta that’s hard to get over,” said McIlroy. “It’s the mental aspect and the deflation of it and sort of trying to get your mind in the right place to start going forward again, I guess.
“I think I’m close.
“I still believe that I’m one of the best players in the world and I can produce good golf to have a chance of winning this week.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Rochester. Editing by Christian Radnedge)