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No man is an island unless his name is Rory McIlroy.

As a confirmed bookworm, the four-time major champion will surely appreciate this nod to John Donne, even if he doesn’t necessarily appreciate the timing.

Following news that his anticipated return to the PGA Tour board has been blocked by a ‘subset’ of apparent sceptics, the Irishman now cuts an increasingly isolated figure in the congested world of men’s professional golf. In the relative blink of an eye, he has gone from agitator, to ‘sacrificial lamb’, to arbitrator, to outcast.

It’s a sequence of events that even prompted McIlroy to dispense with the apolitical stance he has (wisely) adopted throughout his career and invoke the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Neither side was happy,” he told reporters at Quail Hollow yesterday. “Catholics weren’t happy, Protestants weren’t happy, but it brought peace and then you just sort of learn to live with whatever has been negotiated, right?

“That was in 1998 or whatever it was and 20, 25, 30 years ahead, my generation doesn’t know any different. It’s just this is what it’s always been like. We’ve never known anything but peace.

“It’s my little way of trying to think about [the ongoing fight between the PGA Tour and LIV] and make both sides see that there could be a compromise.”

Notwithstanding the obvious dissonance of comparing golf’s current troubles to the actual Troubles, McIlroy’s diminished status reveals far more about the PGA Tour than anything else. It’s not so very long ago that its commissioner Jay Monahan appeared to have no issue in letting hist poster boy be his heat-shield when it seemed their vision for the future was aligned.

Now that it’s not, and with McIlroy favouring a peace deal that involves Saudi Arabian investment into the PGA Tour and more of a global schedule than the circuit currently promotes, Monahan has resorted to reading from the ‘rulebook’.

Consider his statement on yesterday’s policy board shenanigans.

“[This] news is in no way a commentary on Rory’s important perspective and influence,” he stated. “It’s simply a matter of adherence to our governance process by which a tour player becomes a board member.”

How disappointing. How weak. After all he has done for the tour, and Monahan, nobody would blame McIlroy for expecting better. But he shouldn’t. Sad as it may be, this is just the latest example of the strange direction the PGA Tour appears to be heading in.

Indeed, for all of its innovation and noise, LIV’s greatest achievement to date has been to shine a light on the many flaws in the PGA Tour’s complexion; flaws that went undetected – or at least undiscussed – for years.

It has exposed an ineffectual leader apparently in thrall to his corner office in Ponte Vedra Beach; an over-indulged membership for whom ‘enough’ is an abstract dread; a business model worryingly dependent on outside agencies; an increasingly dissatisfied fanbase; a charitable status so shameless and shady that it almost defies comprehension.

Nobody noticed until it was too late, but the tour was low hanging fruit for a nascent challenger. Along came LIV, Monahan zigged when he could have zagged, and, well, here we are, in the same miserable space we’ve occupied for the last two years and counting.

Because you can’t spell ‘purgatory’ without ‘PGA Tour’.

Sponsors are pulling out. Players are walking away. Fans are turning off. And not one of these trends looks like reversing any time soon. Where’s the panic? The sense of urgency? The acceptance – reluctant or not – that the established order has been challenged beyond the point of continuity? That compromise is the only path to a resolution?

“We’re working on it.” That was the gist of Monahan’s message when he met the media at The PLAYERS Championship in March. But forgive us for wanting specifics. Blind faith doesn’t cut it anymore because too much trust has been broken.

In any event, the PGA Tour’s future now appears to rest largely with its players – a self-preserving concession made by Monahan following the June 6 fallout – and only the most fanatical of fanboys would field that prospect with optimism. These, after all, are golfers. They might wear the logos of some of the world’s most influential companies but that in no way qualifies them to work for them.

Thankfully, some are smart enough to realise that. Billy Horschel, for instance. “We’re not business people,” he said last summer. “We don’t have the experience in that world to make those decisions.”

But how hard can it be, right Patrick Cantlay? Thanks to a series of perverse missteps, a guy who claims he can’t find a hat to fit his head is being empowered to put the PGA Tour back on the front-foot in a fight it doesn’t need and that many doubt it can win. The folly is astonishing. This isn’t the time for corporate cosplay. It’s time for the right people to make smart decisions.

None of which is to say that McIlroy – no martyr, lest anybody think otherwise – has all the answers. He might not have any. But he is the only figure of clout publicly endorsing a compromise. In the absence of others following suit, it’s hard to escape the conclusion they are instead becoming ever more entrenched in pursuing an agenda that benefits themselves first, foremost and last.

None of which is good for the PGA Tour. Nor LIV, for that matter. Nor the DP World Tour. Nor any of the other impacted parties.

But on and on we go. It’s Groundhog Day, every day. Yesterday, today, tomorrow and the day after that, until such times as somebody is prepared to give up on a little of what they want in order to give the rest of us what we want the most.

Unity. Order. Resolution.

Give us peace, basically.

Michael McEwan is the 2023 PPA Scotland ‘Columnist of the Year’ and ‘Writer of the Year’


author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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