Home » Why Justin Thomas’s Stern LIV Golf Verdict Amid Rory McIlroy’s Softened Stance Signals Changing Tides Within the PGA Tour

Why Justin Thomas’s Stern LIV Golf Verdict Amid Rory McIlroy’s Softened Stance Signals Changing Tides Within the PGA Tour

From its inception in 2021 to its second event on the 2024 calendar, LIV Golf has undoubtedly witnessed a lot of obstacles. However, throughout the same, one thing stood out like a sore thumb; Rory McIlroy and his hate for the PIF-funded league, that is, up until his Ryder Cup teammate Jon Rahm jumped ships. But, amid all the confusion, a fellow golfer did not let go of his conviction against the disruptive tour, none other than Justin Thomas.

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Surprisingly, the 34-year-old had recently changed his stance regarding the alternate tour and its players. Well, following the same, JT also decided to express his opinions as well once again. But, it fell more in line with the comments that were dished out by the Northern Irishman before he turned softie, even going so far as to make others think that he has taken over McIlroy’s job of hating on the LIV Golf and its players.

Justin Thomas; the outspoken critic of LIV Golf

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Back in 2023, during the Genesis Scottish Open in July, many LIV golfers who played their first tourney on the Saudi-backed tour at the Centurion Club in June were fined GBP 100,000 ($126297.70) along with being banned from the DPWT event. However, the likes of Ian Poulter, Justin Harding, Adrian Otaegui, and Branden Grace were able to join the field following a successful appeal against the penalty.

When Thomas was asked about playing with the golfers from the PIF-funded circuit, he didn’t care to hide his dislike for the same. “It might be a little better,” said the golfer when talking about the prospect of having an “opportunity to beat one of them to win the tournament.” Moreover, he also made sure to point out how there wouldn’t “necessarily” be any “gamesmanship or needling each other out there” on the greens, all the while conveying his aversion towards the league.

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Was that all? Not even close. In 2023, when the PGA Tour decided to overhaul designated events in the coming season and move to limited-field, no-cut tournaments, Greg Norman and many others had taken to the internet to take a shot at the Jay Monahan-led circuit. They did so while ‘congratulating’ the tour on imitating the Saudi-backed league.

JT did not keep quiet at all. Laughing at the same, he said, “Well, we have an astronomically higher amount of quality players than they do in their events.” Adding on, the golfer pointed out how all of this was already in motion but came faster owing to the circumstances, “this is stuff that we’ve been trying to do and have worked on.” Continuing on, he said, “Obviously got sped up a crazy amount due to what was going on in the outside.”

Well, all that was in 2023, when he stood closely with the likes of the Northern Irishman to express his loyalty to the PGA Tour. However, little did he know McIlroy would turn softie in his heart for the LIV Golf Pros.

Rory McIlroy, the transition of the century

“Too judgemental,” is the term the 4X major champ used to denote his attitude towards the players from the PIF-funded circuit. What’s more, he even went ahead and pointed out how LIV Golf has “exposed the PGA Tour’s flaws” during his interview with the Stick to Football podcast. This is in stark contrast to what he said earlier about the same, that it is “dead in the water” before going ahead to express his disbelief at people defecting to the circuit; “I just can’t any reason why anyone would go.”

Interestingly, he also expressed regret at the mistakes he made in assuming things about the league and its players during the time following its inception till date. Besides, the 34-year-old also dubbed the two circuits competing against each other as totally “unsustainable” for the sport of golf before going ahead to convey his understanding of why the gofers defected to the alternate tour.

But, the most recent comment by the golfer has truly shaken the golf world;  “Let them come back… I don’t think there should be a punishment” stated the professional regarding the players who left the PGA Tour and went to LIV Golf. But, his colleagues on the Jay Monahan-led circuit don’t seem to share the same opinion.

Thomas’s stance and the PGAT’s current situation

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Following the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Thursday, Rickie Fowler put forth his opinion on there being a penalty for the returning golfers. Well, guess who agreed with him? Yes, JT himself as he mentioned how he “would have a problem with it” while alluding to the LIV golfers being able to come back and play on the circuit without some form of punishment. “And I think a lot of guys would have a problem with it,” continued the pro.

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Well, with the merger between the three tours to soon come in place, one would think that the athletes from the PGA Tour would be a bit lenient towards the defectors. However, the investment from Strategic Sports Group has given them more than enough leverage to stand tall against PIF during the negotiations and its players if they plan on coming back. It truly has signaled a change in the Monahan-led circuit and Thomas’s stern stance alludes to the same.

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