Rory McIlroy won’t return to PGA Tour Policy Board after ‘uncomfortable’ response from players

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The PGA Tour’s best players are at Quail Hollow this week for the sixth of eight $20 million signature events this season, but the early discussion so far at the 2024 Wells Fargo Championship has been focused off the course.

PGA Tour Policy Board member Webb Simpson had planned to step down from his role and have Rory McIlroy – who resigned from the board back in November – take his place. After some “complicated” and “messy” discussions, Simpson will see out his term which ends in 2025 after players voiced their concerns about McIlroy returning.

“There’s been a lot of conversations,” McIlroy said with a coy smile, noting how the discussions partly reminded him of why he left the policy board in the first place. “It got pretty complicated and pretty messy and I think with the way it happened, I think it opened up some old wounds and scar tissue from things that have happened before.”

“There was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason,” he added. “I think the best course of action is if, you know, there’s some people on there that aren’t comfortable with me coming back on, then I think Webb just stays on and sees out his term, and I think he’s gotten to a place where he’s comfortable with doing that and I just sort of keep doing what I’m doing. I put my hand up to help and it was — I wouldn’t say it was rejected, it was a complicated process to get through to put me back on there. So that’s all fine, no hard feelings and we’ll all move on.”

Simpson contradicted McIlroy no less than an hour later and denied any negative sentiment towards the world No. 2’s potential return to the board.

“I think the players on the board were very supportive of him being more involved, and in those conversations I think they all see the vital role he plays not only on the PGA Tour, but he’s a DP World Tour member and they’re such an important piece in the game of golf and our Tour,” said Simpson, who also noted he didn’t get any sense that McIlroy wasn’t welcomed. “So his perspective is tremendous to us. He’s a global player, always has been, so I just think his views are important, and the other guys feel the same.”

Wells Fargo Championship 2024
Wells Fargo Championship 2024

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in action during the Pro Am event at Quail Hollow Country Club on May 09, 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

McIlroy, who has been on the front lines for the PGA Tour in its battle with LIV Golf, joined the board in 2022 and was supposed to serve out his term until the end of this year until he abruptly resigned late last fall. McIlroy was then replaced by Jordan Spieth via a board vote. After sticking up for the Tour for the better half of two years, his decision to bail on the board didn’t sit well with his colleagues.

“He was very clear that it was too much for him. He had business dealings, he has a kid, he wants to focus on his game. Trust me, I get it. But once you quit, you’re not getting back,” Kevin Streelman, a former member of the policy board who ran against McIlroy for Player Advisory Council chairman, told Golfweek. “I wouldn’t quit on something that you were elected to by your peers. To want back in is peculiar.”

Since he left the board, McIlroy has been adamant and outspoken on why the Tour needs to get a deal done with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – LIV’s financial backer – in order to reunite the game.

Golf and the PGA Tour has been so good to me over the years, I just feel like it’s my obligation or duty to try to give back and try to set the next generation of players up like we were set up by the previous generation,” McIlroy said of his reasoning to try and rejoin the board after stepping down. “I think there’s a responsibility with every generation to try to leave the Tour, leave the place that you’re playing in a bit of a better spot than it was before. That’s what it’s about.”

Despite being stiff-armed out of consideration, McIlroy is “still optimistic” a deal will get done and believes Simpson staying on “is a really good thing.”

“I think he’s got a really balanced voice in all of this and I think he sees the bigger picture, which is great,” McIlroy explained. “My fear was if Webb stepped off and it wasn’t me that was going in his place, what could potentially happen. Yeah, I’m really happy that Webb has made that decision to stay on and serve out the rest of his term.”

As a 35-year-old from Northern Ireland, McIlroy made an interesting comparison of the current state of professional golf to the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland and Ireland in the 1990s.

“I would say I’m impatient because I think we’ve got this window of opportunity to get (a deal) done, because both sides from a business perspective I wouldn’t say need to get it done, but it makes sense,” he explained. “I sort of liken it to like when Northern Ireland went through the peace process in the ’90s and the Good Friday Agreement, neither side was happy. Catholics weren’t happy, Protestants weren’t happy, but it brought peace and then you just sort of learn to live with whatever has been negotiated, right?”

“That’s sort of how I — it’s my little I guess way of trying to think about it and trying to make both sides see that there could be a compromise here.  Yeah, it’s probably not going to feel great for either side, but if it’s a place where the game of golf starts to thrive again and we can all get back together, then I think that’s ultimately a really good thing.”

The Tour’s Chief Competitions Officer Tyler Dennis wasn’t able to provide a material update on the status of the conversations between the PIF and the Tour, but did note the discussions are still ongoing and positive.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek