McIlroy’s sudden about-face on player independence

In a stunning turnaround Rory McIlroy has come out declaring golfers are ‘independent contractors’ and should be allowed to tee-up where they choose.

McIlroy was answering a question ahead of tonight’s $3.5m Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas regarding the Saudi-based controversy that has gripped the world of golf.

Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy talks ahead of the 2021 Hero World Challenge (Credit: PGA Tour)

The four-time major winner, who is Chairman of the PGA Tour Players Advisory Committee, has been most vocal about Saudi Arabia’s drive to attract the best players to the Saudi International saying it was ‘money grab’ and there was ‘no morality to it’.

Those players, including the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Keopka, Tommy Fleetwood, Adam Scott, Shane Lowry and others, who have be confirmed to tee-up next February along the Red Sea are being threatened by both the PGA Tour and European Tour with a possible ban should they compete.

McIlroy said: “We’re independent contractors and we should be able to play where we want to play. So in my opinion I think the Tour should grant releases. It’s an Asian Tour event, it’s an event that has OWGR rankings, I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t.”

“I do see reasons why they wouldn’t grant releases, but I think if they’re trying to do what’s best for their members and their members are going to a place other than the PGA Tour and being able to earn that money.”

“I mean, we’re independent contractors and I feel like we should be able to do that.”

“My personal choice is not to do that, but obviously a lot of players are doing that and I think it’s fair to let them do that”.

It prompted McIlroy to be asked if it could lead to drawn-out legal battles.

“I think the professional game needs to get to a point where we as professionals need to know where we stand. Are we actually independent contractors?” he said. “Are we employed by a certain entity? That’s stuff that’s just — there’s a lot of grey area in that and that’s what sort of needs to be sorted out.”

“I think the tour’s understand where the players are coming from, too. I think some of the things that you’re seeing the Tour put in place are a — maybe a reaction to some of that sentiment.”