McIlroy fears ‘irreparable’ split as Mickelson says LIV ‘not going away’

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Rory McIlroy © Gallo Images

World number one Rory McIlroy has said the rift between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf is in danger of becoming “irreparable”, but six-time winner Phil Mickelson, one of the main players on the Saudi-backed tour , insisted the new competition was now a “force in the game”.

The LIV series wraps up in Doral, near Miami, this weekend with a tag team championship featuring millions of dollars in prize money, but animosity over the breakaway has left McIlroy worried about the game.

“This ‘us versus them’ thing has already gotten out of control,” McIlroy said in an interview with Britain’s The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday.

“If the two entities continue to double back and forth it will only become irreparable. We are going to have a fractured sport for a long time. It is not good for anyone,” said the Northern Irishman, who returned to the en topped the world golf rankings with a victory in the CJ Cup on Sunday.

Mickelson, speaking at the LIV event press conference, said he didn’t want to distract from the tournament on the Blue Monster course by directly responding to McIlroy’s comments, but he said the breakaway made now part of the golf scene.

“If I just look at LIV Golf and where we are today, where we were six, seven months ago and people say it’s dead in the water, and we’re past that, and we are here today, a force in the game that does not go away,” he said.

Sitting on a platform with British Open winner Cameron Smith, former Masters winner Bubba Watson and England Ryder Cup favorite Ian Poulter, Mickelson said the quality of LIV Series talent “moves golf professional across the world and (creating) a level of excitement in countries around the world”.

“It’s quite remarkable how far LIV Golf has come in the last six or seven months. I don’t think anyone can disagree with that,” the American said.

As McIlroy spoke of the danger of polarization in the sport, he also took aim at former European Ryder Cup team mates who had signed up for LIV.

“It’s a strange thing. I think it was the first time in my life that I felt betrayed, in a way. It’s an unfamiliar feeling to me. You bond with these people through the Ryder Cups and stuff that they’re about to do is going to stop them from being part of it again?” he said.

But one of those teammates, Poulter, took issue with the terminology McIlroy used.

” A betrayal ? We can still qualify for the team as far as I know. Unless we’re told we can’t qualify, I’m always ready to play as much as possible and try to be part of this team,” he said.

“My commitment to the Ryder Cup, I think, precedes me. I don’t think that should ever be questioned. I’ve always wanted to play the Ryder Cup and I’ve played with as much passion as anyone. who else I’ve ever seen play a Ryder Cup.

“You know, I don’t know where that comment really came from, to be honest,” he said.

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