BROOKLINE, Mass. -- Rory McIlroy is grateful for what the PGA Tour has given him, and he's more than happy to be among the most vocal supporters of the tour.
Whether it was his not-so-subtle dig at Greg Norman after winning his 21st PGA Tour event this past weekend, or any number of comments he's made on social media and in press conferences in recent months, McIlroy has emerged as a real leader for the PGA Tour and a strong critic of the new rival tour LIV Golf.
Why is McIlroy embracing this role?
"Because in my opinion it's the right thing to do," he said Tuesday at The Country Club in Brookline, the site of this week's U.S. Open tournament.
"The PGA Tour was created by people, tour players that came before us such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. They created something and worked hard for something, and I just hate to see all the players who came before us and all the hard work they put in just come out to be nothing.
"One of the other things is the PGA Tour certainly has given me a lot of opportunities. I've benefitted a lot from that. Bu I think what they've done for charity -- if you put the other major sports organizations in this country, so the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL -- if you put all of their charitable dollars combined, the PGA Tour has raised twice as much as that in their history. That's a massive legacy and something I don't think people talk enough about.
"When you talk about the tour and everything that's happening right now, you have to see the bigger picture than just the golf. I think I've tried to take a wider view of everything, and I just think it's the right thing to do."
It makes sense why older players who are past their prime might find LIV Golf pretty attractive. That tour has enormous financial backing and is paying golfers large amounts of money to play in its tournaments. But for younger players with most of their career still to play, it's harder for some people to accept them leaving the PGA Tour and taking the money.
"A lot of these guys are in their late 40s, and in Phil (Mickelson's) case, early 50s. I think everyone in this room, and they would say themselves that their best days are behind them," McIlroy said.
"And that's why I don't understand for the guys who are a similar age to me going (to LIV Golf), because I would like to believe that my best days are ahead of me, and I think theirs are, too. That's where it feels like you're taking the easy way out."
McIlroy is 33 years old and remains one of the top players on the PGA Tour. He's the No. 3 ranked player in the world after winning the RBC Canadian Open last weekend. Since arriving on the professional scene, McIlroy has won four major championships, along with 21 PGA Tour victories and 14 European Tour wins.
He already has cemented himself as one of the most successful and likeable players of his generation. McIlroy's loyalty to the PGA Tour and the role he's playing in defending its honor will only enhance his stature in the sport.
“Legacy, reputation, at the end of the day that's all you have,” McIlroy said. “You strip everything away, and you're left with how you made people feel and what people thought of you. That is important to me.”
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