BROOKLINE, Mass. -- Rory McIlroy has become one of the most outspoken critics of LIV Golf among PGA Tour players, so has his opinion of Phil Mickelson changed in any way?
Mickelson is arguably the face of LIV Golf -- the new Saudi-backed league competing with the PGA Tour. He signed a contract with the rival tour reportedly worth around $200 million earlier this month.
His decision to join LIV Golf resulted in him being suspended from PGA Tour events. The other 16 golfers who defected to LIV Golf received the same ban. Many die-hard PGA Tour supporters have argued that LIV Golf's creation and the fact that it's poaching players from the PGA Tour is hurting the sport.
Given all that's transpired over the last couple months, has McIlroy lost any respect for Mickelson?
"As a golfer? No," McIlroy said Tuesday at The Country Club in Brookline, the site of this week's U.S. Open tournament. "He won a major championship 13 months ago -- probably one of the crowning achievements of his career and one of the most impressive achievements in the history of the game of golf. As a golfer, I have the utmost respect for Phil.
"I've been disappointed with how he has went about what he has done, but I think he has come back and shown some remorse about how he has handled some things, so I think he has learned from that. And who am I to sit up here and give Phil a lesson on how to do things? He has had a wonderful career. He is his own man. He is a great addition to the field this week. Am I disappointed he has taken the route that he has taken? I am, but I still respect him tremendously."
LIV Golf held its inaugural event this past weekend in London. The U.S. Open is not a PGA Tour event, and the USGA has allowed the LIV Golf players to compete at The Country Club this week.
Therefore, McIlroy will be playing against several of the players who have joined LIV Golf. Even though he doesn't agree with their career decisions, he doesn't see the situation damaging his relationships with those golfers that were developed over his 10-plus years on the PGA Tour.
"I don't think it'll strain any relationships. I'm still gonna be close with the guys who have made the decision to play those events," McIlroy admitted. "It's not as if you agree with absolutely everything that all your friends do. You're going to have a difference of opinion in a lot of things. And that's fine — that's what makes this a great world. We can't all agree on everything.
"I don't think anyone can see where this thing will be in five years' time or 10 years' time. If I had a crystal ball, I could obviously give you a better answer. I honestly don't know. I just think for a lot of the guys who are going to play, that they're younger, sort of similar age to me or a little younger than me, it seems like quite short-term thinking, and they're not really looking at the big picture. Again, I've just tried to see this with a wider lens from the start."
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