Rory McIlroy admits Tiger Woods is the “alpha” dog for the PGA Tour in its battle with LIV Golf.
But it’s the big dog that will count in the BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club, where he hopes his prowess with the driver will pay off as he bids to become the first man to win the season-long FedEx Cup three times.
“It’s a golf course that sort of is a little more up my alley compared to say last week in Memphis,” said McIlroy, who missed last week’s cut.
McIlroy is ranked ninth in the standings, but 36th-ranked Séamus Power and Shane Lowry at 37th – who tee it up together – need big weeks to make the top 30 who contest the Tour Championship. There will be $17m (€16.7m) on the line in Atlanta next week, but money is only part of the battle with LIV and McIlroy sees Woods, who flew to Wilmington for a players’ meeting on the matter, as key.
Asked about the presence of Woods, who made the journey from his home in Florida, McIlroy added: “It’s impactful and I think it shows how much he cares about the Tour.
“Like it or not, they can’t really sell Tiger Woods anymore. The Tour had an easy job for 20 years. They don’t have Tiger – yes, they’ve got a bunch of us and we’re all great players, but we’re not Tiger Woods . . . he is the hero that we’ve all looked up to. His voice carries further than anyone else’s in the game of golf.
“His role is navigating us to a place where we think we should be. I think it’s pretty apparent that whenever we all get in the room there’s an alpha in there, and it’s not me.”
As a sideshow to all this, Patrick Reed is suing the Golf Channel and commentator Brandel Chamblee over coverage of cheating allegations and his subsequent defection to LIV Golf. The former Masters champion filed a lawsuit claiming he’s been defamed over a period of nine years.
Chamblee’s most recent remarks that Reed (32) “would have no problem playing golf for Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Vladimir Putin” were raised in the legal complaint.
“This statement is false because Mr Reed never aligned himself with a ‘tyrannical, murderous leader’,” the lawsuit says, alleging Chamblee and the channel conspired with the PGA Tour and commissioner Jay Monahan to defame Reed “since he was 23 years old”.
The claim says the broadcaster displayed a “reckless disregard of the truth” in “actively targeting [Reed] to destroy his reputation, create hate, and a hostile work environment for him”.
Reed, 32, claims Chamblee’s opinions have led to fans heckling him, with abuse said to include: “Now on the tee the excavator!,” “You suck!,” “You f***ing” suck!,” “You jackass!,” “You coward!”.
The lawsuit seeking more than $750m (€724m) in damages was filed a week after a US court dismissed requests from the suspended Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford for a temporary restraining order.
Meanwhile, Cormac Sharvin, Paul Dunne, Gavin Moynihan, David Carey and Michael Young play the D+D Real Czech Masters in Prague as Tom McKibbin, John Murphy, Ruaidhri McGee and Paul McBride continue their chase for DP World Tour cards in the Challenge Tour’s Dormy Open in Sweden.
Elsewhere, American Walker Isley beat Kilkenny’s Mark Power 3&2 in the first round of the US Ama-teur Championship at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.
Czech Masters, 12.0
BMW Championsip, 3.0
(both live on Sky Sports)