VIRGINIA WATER, England — When Rory McIlroy meets some of his former Ryder Cup teammates at Wentworth this week, don’t expect them to spend much time reminiscing.
European Ryder Cup stalwarts Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are among the contingent of LIV Golf players taking part in the BMW PGA Championship this week, much to the dismay of McIlroy and others who have resisted financial gains from joining the Saudi – sustained breakaway streak.
During an unforgettable Ryder Cup for Europe last year at Whistling Straits, one of the most memorable moments came when McIlroy broke down in tears talking about how much he loved his teammates. On Wednesday, he simply sighed when asked how what seemed to be a close connection to Garcia, Westwood and Poulter could survive the LIV fallout.
“I have no idea,” McIlroy said. “I wouldn’t say I have a great relationship with them at the minute. … But, like, I haven’t done anything different. They’re the ones who made that decision. So I can sit here and keep stand tall and say I didn’t do anything different.”
Shane Lowry also said there could be some awkward meetings this week with players he was “good friends with”.
“Obviously I haven’t seen them in a long time. Don’t hang around with them anymore,” Lowry said. “I probably won’t go out for dinner because we haven’t seen each other. But yeah, there are some guys I shake hands with and some hands I wouldn’t.”
So the rift between players created by LIV shows no signs of healing at Wentworth, where Billy Horschel and Jon Rahm both took aim at the LIV contingent on Tuesday.
LIV golfers who are members of the European Tour are allowed to play at Wentworth while their suspension for playing in the inaugural event of the breakaway series is on appeal. Their Ryder Cup status is also subject to legal action.
US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick said he was “fed up talking about” the whole situation, but acknowledged that current tensions could make it difficult for LIV players to be included in the squad. next year’s Ryder Cup.
“There’s one person I would have, who I would be great to play with and have on the team,” Fitzpatrick said, declining to name the player. “But you know, next year is obviously a long way off, and there’s a lot to come with the whole situation. So that could change things, change attitudes even more, and that probably makes it difficult.”
Next year’s European Ryder Cup squad has already been affected by LIV Golf when Henrik Stenson was removed as captain for joining the breakaway series. When his name appeared at the end of McIlroy’s press conference as the only person to win both the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai – a feat the golfer from Ireland du Nord tries to match – McIlroy just joked: “Who?”
McIlroy had said before the event that it would be “tough to stomach” to play alongside the LIV golfers this week, but said he had yet to see most of them at Wentworth.
“My opinion is they shouldn’t be here, but again, that’s just my opinion,” McIlroy said, before tackling LIV Golf’s format of only playing three rounds instead. of four and starting with different holes. “But we’re all going to play the first tee tomorrow and we’re all going to play 72 holes, which is new for them at this point, and then we’ll go from there.”
McIlroy said he stayed away from a players’ meeting with European Tour general manager Keith Pelley on Tuesday night that included golfers from both factions.
“It wasn’t really a situation I wanted to find myself in knowing who was going to be in that room,” McIlroy said. “So I kind of pulled myself out of that and let them have their way.”
Pelley didn’t give any details about what was said during the reunion at his own press conference, saying it was “very short and there were a few questions from LIV players that I think we answered”.
Pelley also launched a fierce defense of the financial viability of the European Tour – recently renamed DP World Tour – and its ability to compete commercially.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the LIV propaganda machine, producing negative news and misinformation about the poor state of the mainstream golf world, including our tour,” Pelley said. “It’s just not right.”
McIlroy, Fitzpatrick and Horschel all play in the same group on Thursday, so they won’t have to share the course with LIV players until at least the weekend.
Asked if that would give him extra motivation to play in the final duo on Sunday alongside a player who joined the Saudi-backed series, McIlroy couldn’t resist another jibe.
“They are going to be quite tired on Sunday,” he said, “it will be the fourth day.”