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Rory McIlroy resigns from player director role on PGA Tour policy board

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan revealed in a memo to members that Rory McIlroy had stood down as a player-director due to "professional and personal commitments"; McIlroy had been on the board since 2021, having also spent the previous three years on the player advisory council

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Sky Sports News' Jamie Weir explains the reasons behind Rory McIlroy's decision to resign from the PGA Tour board

Rory McIlroy resigned from the PGA Tour board on Tuesday, an abrupt move that comes as the tour is trying to finalise an agreement to create a new commercial enterprise involving Saudi Arabia's national wealth fund.

The world No 2 spoke with the media ahead of the DP World Tour Championship event in Dubai about ongoing discussions to shape the future of men's professional golf, but admitted he did not enjoy being on the inside of those talks.

The Framework Agreement between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) - which blinded players when it was announced in June - was due to be finalised by the end of the year, although meeting that deadline now appears unlikely.

Rory McIlroy
Image: Rory McIlroy resigned from the PGA Tour board on Tuesday

McIlroy, who was a key figure in the PGA Tour's battle against the threat of LIV golf, has now tendered his resignation after two years on the board.

"Citing personal and professional commitments, Rory McIlroy has notified the PGA Tour policy board that he is resigning his position as a player director," a PGA Tour statement read.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a memo sent to players on Tuesday evening: "During his tenure, Rory's insight has been instrumental in helping shape the success of the Tour and his willingness to thoughtfully voice his opinion has been especially impactful.

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Rory McIlroy has hinted that a resolution to talks over the future of men's professional golf could be close but has warned those involved that 'loose lips sink ships'

"Given the extraordinary time and effort that Rory - and all of his fellow player directors - have invested in the Tour during this unprecedented, transformational period in our history, we certainly understand and respect his decision to step down in order to focus on his game and his family."

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In addition to serving on the board since 2021, McIlroy had also spent the previous three years as a member of the player advisory council. The five-year stint of the Northern Irishman across both roles encompassed not only the emergence of LIV golf, but also the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 3rd hole during Day Four of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth
Image: McIlroy was left in the dark regarding the PGA Tour's negotiations with PIF in May, and resigns as a deal involving Saudi Arabia is being discussed

When quizzed about the future of men's professional golf on Tuesday, McIlroy insisted progress was being made in talks, but alluded to the difficulty of being a player director.

"Not particularly, no," McIlroy replied, when asked if it was enjoyable being in key discussions. "Not what I signed for when I went on the board. But the game of professional golf has been in flux for the last two years."

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Rahm: 'No chance' of replacing McIlroy on policy board

Masters champion Jon Rahm has backed McIlroy's decision to resign from the PGA Tour policy board and has no interest in replacing his Ryder Cup team-mate.

Asked on Wednesday if he would be interested in replacing McIlroy, Rahm said: "Absolutely no chance. I've been asked a couple times if I have any interest, and I'm not going to spend, I don't know how many meetings they have, but they are six, seven-hour plus long. I'm not here for that.

Image: Jon Rahm (left) and Rory McIlroy (right) are the top two players in the season-long Race to Dubai standings

"As regards to Rory, he's obviously been put in a situation where a lot has been expected of him, and I don't know the exact reason why he left the board.

"But I certainly wouldn't blame somebody like him to just want to focus a bit more on his game and his family and enjoy the bit of time he's truly earned. Again, it's a big commitment for somebody to be part of it."

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has stepped away to 'recover from a medical situation'
Image: PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan thanked McIlroy for his commitment over the last five years

McGinley: McIlroy focusing on career

McIlroy arrived Dubai for the DP World Tour season-ending tournament already assured of winning a fifth Race to Dubai title, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley believing his decision to resign will help him focus on his bid to claim an elusive fifth major title in 2024.

"I think it [resigning] is more about a focus on his career and certainly the big gap that everybody talks about, which is 10 years since he has won a major championship now, so I'm sure that is closely linked," McGinley told Sky Sports.

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Rory McIlroy looks back on his 2023 season and gives it a seven out of ten but adds that the Ryder Cup win with Europe was a key highlight.

"He has been an important person for the PGA Tour certainly and indeed the DP World Tour over the last couple of years, as this narrative has kind of unfolded around the Saudis, LIV and all that has gone with it.

"I think it's more about clearing the decks and getting his mind ready, particularly for next year going into the major championships. The big miss this year has been the majors but he had three top-10s, including a second in the US Open. He has won around the world this year and has had a load of top-10s again.

"As much as he stepped away with a real focus on his career, I don't think this narrative around LIV and everything going on in the game - with him being front and centre as the chairman of the players board over there - has hurt him in any way.

"What we saw at the Ryder Cup was a mentally engaged and inspired McIlroy, which normally turns into good performances. I really do think that this narrative over the past couple of years has really helped him in terms of his golf. He is now making decisions ahead of The Masters, in particular, to get his mind and everything else in the right place."

Was McIlroy's resignation a surprise?

Sky Sports News' Jamie Weir: "The reason I don't think it's a huge surprise is two reasons. One is for golfing reasons, as he has spent a lot of energy over the last 18 months being the face, the voice of the PGA Tour, fielding phone calls left, right and centre from his colleagues, speaking to the press on the big issues concerning the world of golf.

"It has taken a huge toll on him and I think in the early months of this year, his golf game had clearly suffered as a result. His mental health has suffered as a result. Rory's now at the stage of his career where he needs to look after No 1.

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Rory McIlroy believes his new golf venture TGL, an indoor high-tech league launched with Tiger Woods, is the right way to bring golf into the 21st century and away from the traditional way of playing the game.

"He's 34 years of age, most of the players he's competing against are younger than him. He's at a stage where he needs to focus purely on his game and be entirely selfish.

"I think the other reason he's made this decision is that it has probably now reached the stage where there are things Rory can no longer feel comfortable voting for. When this 'merger' between the Saudi PIF and PGA Tour was announced out of the blue back in June, he spoke about feeling blindsided by it all, exasperated by it.

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"He fought the good fight for as long as he could, but was now resigned to the fact the PGA Tour are going to have to accept investment from the PIF. But he was still very adamant about the fact he had no time for LIV and hated LIV, hoping they would disappear.

"I just wonder whether as these negotiations are ongoing between the PIF and the PGA Tour whether it's reached the point where the PIF have demanded that LIV has to continue, and Rory could not in good faith vote for that. We're at a real crossroads in the state of men's professional golf."

Watch McIlroy and Rahm in action at the DP World Tour Championship, live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins on Thursday from 7am on Sky Sports Golf. Stream the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour and more with NOW.

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