April 19, 2024

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Georgia — Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, one of the PGA Tour’s most vocal supporters during its battle with LIV Golf, has resigned as a player director on the tour’s influential policy board, a tour official confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday.

McIlroy, the No. 2 golfer in the world, announced his resignation in a letter to the full policy board Tuesday. He joined the board in 2022 and was expected to serve through 2024. He cited personal and professional commitments in making his decision to leave the board.

“Given the extraordinary time and effort that Rory — and all of his fellow player directors — have invested in the tour during this unprecedented, transformational period in our history, we certainly understand and respect his decision to step down in order to focus on his game and his family,” Monahan and Edward D. Herlihy, the policy board’s chairman, said in a statement, as first reported by The New York Times.

McIlroy was blindsided by the PGA Tour’s controversial decision on June 6 to enter into a framework agreement to form a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour. He had been a loud critic of the breakaway LIV Golf League, which is being funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

McIlroy wasn’t informed of the framework agreement until a few hours before it was announced by Monahan and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan on CNBC.

At a news conference at the RBC Canadian Open the day after the deal was announced, McIlroy admitted that he was stung by the news after taking such a strong stance against LIV Golf, which had poached star golfers like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and others from the PGA Tour with guaranteed contracts worth more than $100 million.

“It’s hard for me to not sit up here and feel somewhat like a sacrificial lamb and feeling like I’ve put myself out there and this is what happens,” McIlroy said in Toronto.

In the end, however, McIlroy seemed resigned to the fact that the PGA Tour couldn’t keep battling the Saudis’ deep pockets on both the course and in the courts. The framework agreement ended a costly legal battle between the circuits.

“If you’re thinking about one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world, would you rather have them as a partner or an enemy?” McIlroy said in Toronto. “At the end of the day, money talks, and you would rather have them as a partner.”

The framework agreement hasn’t yet been finalized, and the PGA Tour has been weighing additional investment offers from U.S.-based companies over the past few months. The framework agreement is set to expire on Dec. 31, although sources have told ESPN that it can be extended.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, ahead of this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, McIlroy said his role on the policy board wasn’t one he had enjoyed.

“Not particularly, no,” McIlroy said. “Not what I signed for whenever I went on the board. But yeah, the game of professional golf has been in flux for the last two years. Again, the overall game I think is in really good shape. But everyone focuses on this top level because it is what it is, and it’s an entertainment product and it’s a show, but the faster that it gets rectified, I think the better for everyone.”

McIlroy served as a member of the player advisory council from 2019 to 2021, serving the last year as PAC chairman. In his two years as a player director on the policy board, he dealt with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing battle with LIV Golf.

“During his tenure, Rory’s insight has been instrumental in helping shape the success of the TOUR, and his willingness to thoughtfully voice his opinions has been especially impactful,” Monahan wrote in a text message that was distributed to PGA Tour members Tuesday night.

McIlroy, 34, is entering what might be the twilight of his professional golf career. He has won 42 times around the world, including 24 times on the PGA Tour, but hasn’t captured a major championship since winning the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. He needs to win the Masters to complete the career Grand Slam but is 0-for-9 in trying to win a green jacket.

Tiger Woods joined the policy board as a sixth player director on Aug. 1. The remaining player directors include Charley Hoffman (who will be replaced by Adam Scott on Jan. 1), Webb Simpson, Peter Malnati and Patrick Cantlay. The board is also comprises five independent directors and one director representing the PGA of America.

Per PGA Tour regulations, the remaining player directors will elect a successor to serve for the unexpired term. McIlroy’s term expires at the end of 2024.

On Tuesday, the tour announced that Joseph W. “Joe” Gorder, executive chairman of Valero Energy Corporation, has been unanimously approved to replace former independent director Randall Stephenson on the policy board.

Stephenson, a former AT&T chairman, resigned in protest over the PIF deal.

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