Continued speculation that Australia’s World No.2 golfer Cameron Smith will join the LIV series has been a bittersweet post-script for Rory McIlroy’s Tour Championship win, the Irishman has admitted.
McIlroy surged from six shots behind leader Scottie Scheffler heading into the final round to claim an unlikely victory on Sunday, as the American fumbled his lead in gutting fashion.
What should have been a time to celebrate instead prompted a reflection from McIlroy on the reported LIV signings of Smith and fellow Australian Marc Leishman, as well as his own dogged opposition to the formation of the wealthy Saudi Arabian-backed rival to the PGA.
Golf Channel was the first of multiple outlets to report on Saturday that Smith, Leishman, Americans Harold Varner III and Cameron Tringale, Joaquin Niemann of Chile, and Anirban Lahiri of India would join LIV Golf at their next event outside Boston from September 2-4.
ESPN said they were expected to play the event, a move which would jeopardize their Presidents Cup availability as the PGA Tour has said any tour members who participate in a LIV Golf event will be suspended indefinitely.
Smith once again declined to offer an answer as to his future with the PGA when pressed after his 20th place finish at East Lake, with McIlroy having spoken to the World No.2 in the wake of his British Open triumph.
McIlroy said he remained determined in his stance that the LIV series was ruining the game.
“If you believe in something I think you have to speak up, and I believe very strongly about this. I really do,” McIlroy said.
“I hate what it’s doing to the game of golf. I hate it. I really do. Like it’s going to be hard for me to stomach going to Wentworth in a couple of weeks’ time and seeing 18 of them there. That just doesn’t sit right with me.
“I believe what I‘m saying are the right things, and I think when you believe that what you’re saying is the right things, you’re happy to stick your neck out on the line.”
Bittersweet victory for Rory McIlroy amid Cameron Smith reports
Smith and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann both earned automatic berths on the Internationals team for the upcoming Presidents Cup in North Carolina in late September, while four-time representative Leishman is a likely wildcard pick for captain Trevor Immelman.
Chile’s Mito Pereira, another automatic Presidents Cup pick, was also reportedly expected to make the move to LIV but Sports Illustrated said he was not scheduled to play next week’s event.
“Happy and honored to be part of the International Presidents Cup team,” Perreira posted on Instagram on Saturday.
Immelman seemed resigned to losing some stars as his team chases only its second win against the powerhouse US side in the 14th staging of the Presidents Cup.
“I was chosen by our players to lead the International team to the best of my abilities, and I will carry out this honor fully,” Immelman said in a statement to GolfChannel.com.
“All I can control is the experience the 12 players who want to be at the Presidents Cup will have. My wife and I along with our support staff have dedicated 2 years of our lives to making this Presidents Cup an amazing week for our players, caddies, and families.”
Earlier, Golf Channel reported that LIV Golf added itself to the lawsuit that players have lodged against the PGA Tour over their suspensions from the tour for playing in the LIV events, while four players have removed their names from the case.
That leaves seven players, most notably Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, along with LIV Golf, as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The four who withdrew their names are Carlos Ortiz, Abraham Ancer, Pat Perez, and Jason Kokrak.
The amended complaint was filed Friday afternoon in the US District Court in Northern California.
Three players still on the lawsuit – Australian Matt Jones, Talor Gooch, and Hudson Swafford – previously sought a temporary restraining order to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The judge denied their request two weeks ago.