Rory McIlroy has conceded he was “too judgemental” in his criticisms of those who joined the breakaway LIV Golf Tour.
McIlroy took a strident position against the big-money venture, which has tempted a host of top names with lavish paydays and disrupted the established order of the PGA and European Tours.
The Northern Irishman became the voice of opposition to the project, which has continued to divide the sport, and said during last year’s Ryder Cup in Rome that the likes of Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter would miss being part of the European team more than they would be missed.
Now, with talks ongoing to agree a merger between the rival parties, McIlroy appears to have taken a tentative step towards rapprochement with his admission on a podcast: “I think at this point, I was maybe a little judgemental of the guys who went to LIV Golf at the start.
“I think it was a bit of a mistake on my part because I now realise that not everyone is in my position or in Tiger Woods’ position.
“I can’t judge people for making that decision, so if I regret anything, it was probably being too judgemental at the start.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve lost the fight against LIV, but I’ve just accepted the fact that this is part of our sport now.
“At the end of the day, we’re professional golfers and we play to make a living and make money, so I understand it.”
McIlroy remains unhappy at those who criticised the established tours after leaving, but accepted the Saudi intervention did shine a light on problems that had gone overlooked for too long.
“I don’t begrudge anyone for going and taking the money and doing something different, but don’t try to burn the place down on your way out,” he added.
“When people have played that for 15 or 20 years, and then they jump to LIV and start talking crap about where they’ve come from, that is what bothers me, because they wouldn’t be in this position if they didn’t have the career they’ve had so far.
“I think what LIV has done… it’s exposed some of the flaws in the system and, hopefully, golf will have a look at more.”
Jon Rahm became the latest high-profile LIV acquisition within weeks of helping Europe to victory in a Ryder Cup triumph in Rome, a move McIlroy chalked up as calculated move against the backdrop of negotiations between the rival tours.
“I thought it was a smart business move from Jon – it’s opportunistic,” he said.
“(He) hasn’t got any of the heat for going like the first guys got for going.
“Jon is a smart guy and I think he sees things coming together at some point so he’s thinking that he’ll take the up-front money, which is his prerogative, and if things come together he’ll play LIV for a year then come back to play on the tour.”