Rory McIlroy has softened his stance on the LIV Golf League in recent months

“Rory’s U-turn might pave the way to join LIV” says former agent

Rory McIlroy’s dramatic turnaround in his attitude towards the LIV Golf League and those playing on it has left to some people questioning whether the four-time major champion might one day join the Saudi-backed tour.

That is certainly the view of Andrew Chandler, McIlroy’s former agent, who feels that his former charge’s softening stance to the breakaway league might one day lead to the world no.2 joining the likes of Jon Rahm, Dustin Justin and Brook Koepka on the Saudi PIF-funded circuit.

Chandler, who represented McIlroy when the Northern Irishman first turned professional back in 2008, said: “I’m not speaking from any inside knowledge, but if you were looking at it from the outside, he [McIlroy] has done such a U-turn that you would think he is paving the way for it not to be too bad for him if he signs with LIV.”

McIlroy has long been one of the most outspoken critics of the breakaway, even claiming last summer that he would ‘rather retire’ than become one of Greg Norman’s rebels. However, since Ryder Cup teammates Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton’s switches, the four-time major winner has softened his stance, admitting that he has been ‘too judgmental’ of those who jumped ship.

Rory McIlroy picture with Chubby Chandler following his victory at the 2011 US Open at Congressional Country Club

Looking back on McIlroy’s self-imposed role of being the PGA Tour’s chief cheerleader for much of the 2022-23 season, Chandler feels like the former world no.1 backed himself into a corner.

“Becoming a defender of the PGA Tour was a terrible move,” said Chandler. “He must have dreaded going into press conferences, to go through the diatribe he did. It must have been pretty wearing for him to answer questions about something he shouldn’t be involved in. I firmly believe he was trying to do the right thing for the PGA Tour, but why did he put himself on the pedestal he did, and to allow that to happen?

“I think he lost a few fans, as in the end people got a bit fed up of Rory saying this, that and the other. It was all engineered by the PGA Tour that Rory would stand up for them. He definitely took his eye off the ball.”

Chandler added: “The PGA Tour brainwashed everyone to hate LIV. Some of the stuff that’s gone on has been ridiculous. If a golf course holds a LIV event it can’t host a PGA Tour event – it’s a golf course for god’s sake. The golf course hasn’t done anything. It has all been ridiculously childish. How Jay Monahan [the PGA Tour commissioner] has a job I have no idea. He’s managed to hang out to dry the whole of the PGA Tour who went to LIV, and the whole of the PGA Tour who didn’t go to LIV, but he’s still there. It’s frightening.”

“LIV is here to stay,” Chandler added. “They’ve got a lot of money and you can see what they are trying to do. Is it sport washing? It probably is, but it’s only what other countries do. Some of the things they get wrong in Saudi will be put right because they’ve got all this attention on them through international sport.

McIlroy and Chandler’s relationship goes back to when McIlroy first turned professional back in 2008

Speaking about the on-going rift between LIV and the PGA Tour, Chandler added: “Golf has had to suffer to get to where it needs to get to. What we cannot underestimate is that massive change that has happened over the last two years, and that LIV have managed to survive that and have got a product that people are starting to understand. People understand that the good players on LIV are still good players. Dustin Johnson won in Vegas just like he won when he was on the PGA Tour – he didn’t look or play any different, he was focused and intense.

“People need to realise that the PGA Tour and LIV are not the same thing, it’s not the same form of golf. It’s like a T20 cricket compared to a Test match. I love cricket, and I have no qualms watching T20 and no qualms watching a Test match, but I don’t expect them to be the same, because they’re not. It’s the same with golf, three rounds is different from four, so when they tee it up on day one they are going at it. They are not trying to just get into the tournament, to be patient, they get after it early.”

Chandler was speaking in association with