Rory McIlroy has accused Brooks Koepka of being “duplicity” for joining the rebel Saudi Tour as the PGA Tour announced a sweeping overhaul to stop the exodus, with commissioner Jay Monahan calling Series LIV an “irrational threat”.
Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed on Tuesday that four-time Major winner Koepka is the latest big name to sign a four-year, seven-figure deal with LIV and will take part in next week’s $25million tournament in Portland, Oregon. .
McIlroy is unimpressed after Koepka’s previously vocal opposition to the separatist league.
“I’m surprised by a lot of these guys because they say one thing and then they do another, and I don’t understand,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “I don’t know if it’s for legal reasons or if they can’t… But it’s pretty deceitful of them to say one thing and do another thing.”
When asked if he was referring to what Koepka said a year ago or a month ago, McIlroy replied, “Throughout, in public and in private – everything.”
Telegraph Sport have learned that just 10 days ago Koepka assured a fellow PGA Tour player that he would not be joining LIV and this tallied with his statements to the media.
Last week, he accused reporters of casting “a dark cloud” over the US Open when he asked him about LIV, saying his inquisitors were giving the show “legs” by continuing to cover it.
He previously told The The Singapore Time: “I find it hard to believe that golf should only have 48 players. Money won’t make me happy. I just want to play against the best. If someone gives me $200 million tomorrow, it won’t change my life. I have enough to retire tomorrow. I just want to play golf.
Koepka, 32, also expressed doubts that playing in the LIV series would keep players “sharp” for the majors. However, the initial check from the organizers – estimated at over £100m – was clearly too much to resist.
McIlroy took one of the toughest stances among those who remain loyal to the PGA Tour, calling Phil Mickelson, LIV’s de facto leader on the course, in February “selfish, selfish and ignorant.” But now it looks like there is greater anger in the PGA Tour and DP World Tour locker rooms and their players are starting to turn against the LIV Rebels in greater numbers.
Justin Thomas, the world number 7, swept Koepka by linking up with his longtime enemy Bryson DeChambeau, posting a photo of the pair above a message saying “Can’t live without each other” , while World Tour DP winner Eddie Pepperell admitted in an interview over the weekend that it had affected his friendship with Laurie Canter, who competed in the first LIV event in Hertfordshire two weeks ago. Pepperell also said that “Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter don’t give a damn” about the impact this could have on young players’ careers.
Far from opposing this kind of infighting and the escalation of a civil war in the famously distinguished sport, Monahan made it clear at a mandatory meeting of players at the Travelers Championship on Tuesday that he wanted his members “come out of the fence and fight”. for your tour.
Monahan issued immediate and indefinite bans to the 17 Tour players who played it at Hemel Hempstead, and in an email to players on Wednesday, Monahan cryptically said “invest in your organization”.
With Koepka making it four members of the world’s top 25 on the LIV roster – Mexican Abraham Ancer was unveiled on Tuesday, along with Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen at the inaugural event – Monahan’s angst is obvious because it’s understandable. Of the last 21 major tournaments, nine have been won by LIV golfers.
LIV finally made Koepka’s decision official by issuing a press release on Wednesday afternoon, just as Monahan was beginning a press conference at TPC River Highlands. Monahan, who attended Koepka’s wedding last month, didn’t hold back.
“If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour cannot compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars trying to buy the golf game,” he told reporters.
“We welcome good healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not that. It’s an irrational threat.
A fortnight ago, Monahan said LIV was “just money, money, money,” which matched his plea for pros to think about their legacy and not their fortune. However, the revamp that Monahan is introducing transparently ensures that top players are better rewarded and therefore won’t be so keen on running for the Saudi millions. Monahan described the changes, revealed by Telegraph Sport earlier this week.
First, there’s a whopping $54 million increase in purses for eight select events, ranging from a $5 million increase to $25 million for the Players Championship and an $8 million increase $20 million for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Secondly, there will be the formation of a three-tournament fall series which will also offer prize money in the range of $20-25 million and, more specifically, will only contain the top 50 players in the points standings. this year’s FedEx Cup. As in the LIV series, it will not have a cut.
Third, the PGA Tour season will no longer be a looping season, but will run from January to August starting in 2024. The final months of the year will include not only the fall series, but also tournaments in which the players who have not made the limited events are fighting to keep their playing privileges.
It will appeal to those like McIlroy, who has declared his desire “to have an off-season.” However, it remains to be seen how this will affect the Race To Dubai DP World Tour run-in from September to November.
This will be seen as the day the PGA Tour retaliates, but Monahan knows that in his mission to stop the LIV’s leak, he needs the Majors to back him up and close their doors to the Rebels.
The R&A confirmed on Wednesday that every qualified player will be cleared to play in next month’s Open Championship at St Andrews. This means that there is no LIV ban. But Martin Slumbers, the managing director of R&A, who has made no secret of his views on LIV, struck a thinly veiled jab at Greg Norman’s business in the final sentence of the statement.
“We will invest the proceeds of The Open, as we always do, to benefit golf, which reflects our goal of ensuring the sport thrives 50 years from now,” he said.
Norman, the general manager of LIV, then mocked Monahan. “The Tour today made the case for LIV Golf,” Norman said in a statement sent to Telegraph Sport. “They underpaid players for years, failed to innovate and confirmed today that LIV’s format is better…Instead of banning players, the Tour should now work to coexist with us. After all, we are just getting started.