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Once rebel golf league’s harshest critic, Rory McIlroy unveils his peace plan – with a big bonus for Australia

As the PGA Tour and LIV Golf continue to negotiate the sport’s future, Rory McIlroy says he has a “dream scenario” with a global approach that would include making the Australian Open equivalent to the sport’s “fifth major”.

Jan 10, 2024, updated Jan 10, 2024
epa10960849 Team member of Boston Common Golf, Rory McIlroy, takes questions during a press conference announcing the team for The Golf League, at the MGM Music Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 06 November 2023.  EPA/CJ GUNTHER

epa10960849 Team member of Boston Common Golf, Rory McIlroy, takes questions during a press conference announcing the team for The Golf League, at the MGM Music Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 06 November 2023. EPA/CJ GUNTHER

McIlroy said his “dream scenario is a world tour” backed by corporate America and Saudi Arabia, describing that support as “basic economics”.

Included in that scenario would be a geographical expansion of the tour.

“The Australian Open, for example, should almost be the fifth major,” the former world No.1 said in an interview with Golf Digest in Dubai.

“The market down there is huge with potential. They love golf. They love sport.

“They have been starved of top-level golf. And the courses are so good.”

Despite LIV’s injection of fresh finances into the sport, McIlroy said golf still had plenty of untapped commercial opportunity.

“Revenues at the PGA Tour right now are about $US2.3 billion ($A3.4 billion),” he said.

“So how do we get that number up to four or six?

“It is by looking outward. They need to think internationally and spread their wings a bit. I’ve been banging that drum for a while.”

The PGA Tour is continuing negotiations to finalise an alliance with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which bankrolls LIV.

The PGA Tour revealed a ‘framework agreement’ to merge interests with the PIF in a surprise announcement on June 6.

McIlroy has a new perspective after his previous criticism of the two-year-old LIV Golf, which has the financial resources to successfully recruit many of the PGA Tour’s established players – including Phil Mickelson at the start, Australia’s Cam Smith and, most recently, Jon Rahm.

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A four-time major champion from Northern Ireland, McIlroy, 34, has been the face of the PGA Tour during this period but resigned from the organisation’s policy board in November.

“Getting out of all things political has definitely cleared my head,” he said.

“I don’t feel like I’m caught up in it all.

“For the last two years, every time I’d be walking from the locker room to the range, I’d be stopped by someone with a couple of questions.”

He does have an opinion, though, on expanding international opportunities for the planet’s best golfers.

“Whether they are rotated on the new global circuit, or we go with the same ones every year, I’m OK with either,” he said.

“The South African Open is another I’d have in the mix. Then you have places like Singapore and Hong Kong and Japan. What a market Japan represents.

“That would be another opportunity. We could end up with something that resembles Formula One, but with a little more of an American presence.”

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