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Rory’s ‘I’m out’ verdict could spell death knell for League

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – FEBRUARY 20: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the ninth tee during the first round of the World Golf Championships Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec on February 20, 2020 in Mexico City, Mexico. Hector Vivas/Getty Images/AFP

Rory McIlroy has delivered a potentially fatal blow to the proposed Premier Golf League by ruling himself out of joining a breakaway circuit, reports belfasttelegraph.co.uk.

Under the proposals outlined in January by the World Golf Group, 48 players would compete in an 18-event season offering a total prize fund of $240 million (£183m).

The tournaments would be 54 holes rather than the traditional 72 and there would be an individual and team league format, with the weekly individual winner claiming USD 2million (£1.5m) of the $10 million (£7.5m) purse.

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To have any chance of success, the PGL would need to have the likes of world number one McIlroy and Tiger Woods among its players.

However, as well as ruling himself out, McIlroy also believes Woods would not be interested in committing to play so many events.

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“The more I’ve thought about it the more I don’t like it,” McIlroy told reporters in a press conference ahead of the WGC-Mexico Championship.

“The one thing as a professional golfer in my position that I value is the fact that I have autonomy and freedom over everything that I do.

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“This (week) is a perfect example. Some guys this week made the choice not to come to Mexico.

“If you go and play in this other golf league you’re not going to have that choice.

“I read a thing the other day that said if you take the money they can tell you what to do, so if you don’t take the money they can’t tell you what to do.

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“I think that’s my thing – I’ve never been one for being told what to do and I like to have that autonomy and freedom over my career and I feel I would give that up by going to play this other league. For me, I’m out.”

McIlroy acknowledges that he may have to change his stance if he is the only player against the league, but feels opinion is currently “very split” between the game’s star names.

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“My position is I’m against it until there may come a day when I can’t be against it,” the four-time major winner added.

“If everyone else goes I might not have a choice but at this point, I don’t like what they’re proposing.

“Tiger’s 44, he’s got, two young kids. He’s openly said last week he wants to play 12 times a year, this league’s proposing 18 so he’s not going to do it.”

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The concept of a “World Golf Tour” has been around for more than 20 years, with former world number one Greg Norman unveiling his plans in 1994 but failing to gain any traction.

“I would like to be on the right side of history with this one, just sort of as Arnold (Palmer) was with the whole Greg Norman thing in the 90s,” McIlroy added.

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“Money’s cheap, money’s the easy part. It shouldn’t be the driving factor.

“For some people it is and we’re professional golfers and we’re out here playing golf to make a living, but at the end of the day I value my freedom and my autonomy over everything else.

“I value a lot of other things over money and that’s my stance on it at this point.”

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Graeme McDowell, meanwhile, is relishing his first WGC event since 2016 as he looks to book a Ryder Cup return.

McDowell’s victory in the Saudi International at the start of the month lifted the former US Open champion into the top 50 in the world rankings and secured his place this week.

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The 39-year-old also currently occupies an automatic qualifying place for September’s Ryder Cup against the United States at Whistling Straits, having missed out on playing in 2016 and 2018.

McDowell was vice-captain under Thomas Bjorn in Paris and would be expected to perform the same role for Padraig Harrington this year, but would rather play than be a member of the backroom staff.

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“I’ve played a lot of WGCs in my career and I think you do take them for granted a little,” McDowell said. “They are amazing tournaments when you get the best players from all over the world to come together here in Mexico.

“It’s the first time seeing the golf course for me and it’s a great track, reminds me a little of Valderrama and obviously you’ve got the altitude so the ball goes a long way. But I’m excited to be back in these WGC events.

“It’s important for me, if I have aspirations of being in the Ryder Cup team, that I’ve got to be in the WGCs and major championships so it’s really important to take that first step, to get my schedule to where it needs to be and hopefully I can kick on from here.”

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