ROCHESTER, NY – Rory McIlroy’s press conferences are usually some of the best in golf. Writers can fill several notebooks with his thoughtful responses on topics that often range from golf course design to red wine.
Tuesday’s meeting with the press ahead of this week’s PGA Championship still featured plenty of introspective thoughts about Oak Hill Country Club and the pursuit of a major title, but that’s more what McIlroy didn’t say this time which raised eyebrows.
When asked to look ahead and predict the future of LIV Golf, a subject he has spoken on several times, McIlroy rather sidestepped the question.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said.
When the follow-up asked if he wanted to speculate, his response was even shorter.
Media members then veered in a different direction, with topics ranging from his ties to Rochester (his wife is local) and whether he had ever met Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (he hasn’t do).
But the part about LIV was so unusual and unexpected that it needed an extra push.
“You mentioned earlier about not having a crystal ball; obviously, we’ve all asked you a lot of questions about LIV, and you recently spoke yourself about the burden it poses. Will it be a conscious thing for you to try to avoid that narrative? » asked the journalist.
“Yeah,” was another one-word response.
So no more LIV questions, and that’s great. McIlroy has done more than his fair share of the heavy lifting over the past year as the two sides squared off. He wasn’t just trying to play elite-level golf, but he was doing it by attending board meetings as head of the PGA Tour Player Advisory Committee. He also played a leading role in the unofficial player group assembled by Tiger Woods that led to the PGA Tour’s reinvented schedule.
So perhaps it’s not unusual that McIlroy has placed a moratorium on giving his opinion on anything LIV-related. It’s a burden he carries like an overloaded golf bag. Press conference after press conference, interview after interview, he was asked about LIV and he made his opinion on LIV known. He has been the PGA Tour’s de facto spokesperson for all things LIV and has explained why his team is superior.
Clearly, this took a toll on McIlroy’s golf and perhaps his life in general. Citing mental overload, the 34-year-old Northern Irishman recently took time off work, avoiding the RBC Heritage, a designated event. The move cost him a $3 million penalty from a year-end performance bonus. It could very well be worth it if he’s able to turn the time off into a major title drought ending this week. It’s already worth it if it also allows him to loosen the pressure valves in his world outside of golf.
“I don’t know,” McIlroy said of whether the break would help him play this week. “I needed it at that time. Whether it will work this week or not remains to be seen.
McIlroy comes into this week looking to win a major for the first time since winning the 2014 PGA Championship. He’s had plenty of opportunities to win during that stretch, recording 17 top-10s in tournaments major. But his play in major events this year has been lackluster, missing the cut at both the Players Championship and the Masters.
With this, the world No. 3 player tries to approach the week with less intensity and a clear mind.
“After these disappointments, I just try to be in a good place by accepting what comes and not overthinking things, not getting ahead of myself,” he said. “I just try to go out there, play a good first hole of the tournament, and then once I do that, I try to play a good second hole and go from there.”
McIlroy could make a statement again this week, but this time he hopes to do it with his clubs.