Rory McIlroy will not rejoin PGA Tour policy board

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A PGA Tour policy board member attempted two weeks ago to resign from his seat with the specific caveat that Rory McIlroy rejoin the powerful group. Now, it appears the board is resisting Rory McIlroy’s return.

McIlroy told reporters Wednesday the process for his return was complicated and not all parties supported it after McIlroy resigned from his own board seat just six months earlier. In turn, Webb Simpson, the man who hoped to step down to let McIlroy back in, is expected to keep his board seat for the remainder of his term.

“I think there was — there was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason,” McIlroy said after a pro-am round at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. “I think the best course of action is if, you know, there’s some people on there that aren’t comfortable with me coming back on, then I think Webb just stays on and sees out his term, and I think he’s gotten to a place where he’s comfortable with doing that and I just sort of keep doing what I’m doing.”

McIlroy was the most vocal and public face of the PGA Tour in its war against LIV — often criticizing the Saudi-funded league and players who left the PGA Tour to join it — until the tour surprisingly announced a framework agreement to team up with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia on June 6, 2023. After that announcement, he referred to himself as a “sacrificial lamb” and took a large step back from his prominent public role. He resigned from the PGA Tour policy board in November, and Jordan Spieth took his place.

The policy board is a collection of 11 voting members that help decide the future of the PGA Tour with six seats reserved for player directors. Shortly after McIlroy’s resignation, Sports Illustrated reported McIlroy (who was primarily fighting to spread wealth throughout the tour) lost a power battle to the bloc of Patrick Cantlay, Tiger Woods and Spieth, all of whom were pushing for more money and power for top players.

Since his departure, McIlroy has reactivated his voice but shifted his message toward unification with LIV and bringing all the best players together. He rubbed people the wrong way, criticizing Spieth publicly for saying the PGA Tour didn’t “need” the Saudis. He consistently made comments about the desire for money ruining the sport. He then got in an awkward incident at the Players Championship with playing partners Spieth and Viktor Hovland.

McIlroy rejoining the board would have undoubtedly created an interesting dynamic.

“I think it opened up some old wounds and scar tissue from things that have happened before,” McIlroy said Wednesday.

When reports first surfaced about Simpson’s letter of resignation at the Zurich Classic in April, McIlroy said of a potential return: “I think I can be helpful. I don’t think there’s been much progress made in the last eight months, and I was hopeful that there would be.”

At the time, most assumed McIlroy’s return would be a simple process, but there isn’t much if any precedent for a board member requesting who takes their place. McIlroy made several comments acknowledging the need for the board to approve it.

“But only if people want me involved, I guess,” he said. “When Webb and I talked and he talked about potentially coming off the board, I said, look, if it was something that other people wanted, I would gladly take that seat, and that was the conversation that we had.”

McIlroy said his return wasn’t completely rejected, but the process was complicated and there’s no hard feelings. He remains optimistic a deal with PIF will get done, in part because Simpson is keeping his board seat.

“I think he’s got a really balanced voice in all of this and I think he sees the bigger picture, which is great,” McIlroy said. “My fear was if Webb stepped off and it wasn’t me that was going in his place, what could potentially happen.”

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(Top photo: Warren Little / Getty Images)

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