World number two Rory McIlroy insists he is not playing to prove a point with the PGA Tour, which faces the biggest threat in its history from the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
That Northern Irishman won the Canadian Open a fortnight ago and competed in last week’s US Open – eventually finishing joint fifth – bogey-free at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut on Thursday before equaling his lowest opening round on the US Tour. With 62.
His eight-under-par score gave him an early clubhouse lead just ahead of Olympic gold medalist Xander Schöffel and Scotland’s Martin Laird, and maintained his recent good form but the 33-year-old was dismissed because of the Saudi-backed The suggestions made were rejected. The breakaway had helped him up his game.
“I think it so happens that the most protective players on the PGA Tour are the best players in the world right now,” he said.
“I am not going out to try to prove anything to anyone. I am in good form. I am playing well.
“Does this give me a little more confidence to speak out on some issues, maybe, but I am trying to play my game and try to win a few more tournaments.”
On the eve of the tournament, and in response to the growing LIV threat, which saw the collapse of four-time major winner Brooks Koepka on Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced a combined increased purse size of nearly US$60 million (£48.9m). announced. Eight tournaments next year.
The schedule will also shift back one calendar year, with the FedEx Cup season running from January to August.
McIlroy welcomed the changes and asked if he thinks it would make a difference to players considering switching to LIV, adding: “As he (Monahan) said, there’s only one reason people go to the other side.” And it is because they have the opportunity to make more money. Even though (world number one and Masters champion) Scotty Scheffler has earned USD 13 million (£10.6m) this season and it is only June.
“There are a lot of money making opportunities here but as always in golf everything has to be earned.
“Some of these schedule changes and some of these prize money increases I’m sure (will cause) some people who were thinking twice about it and maybe reconsider their decision.”
McIlroy produced an impressive round at TPC River Highlands with eight birdies, despite hitting just seven of the 14 fairways.
Starting from the last nine, he began his round in the 13th par-five with a chip-in and slammed his greenside bunker shot to the far edge.
Two more birdies saw him turn 32, but then he dodged four more in seven holes—including a 48-footer on the seventh.
However, he saved his best until the last four, when he cut the corner with a 332-yard drive leaving him to pin for 44 yards and chipped in for a tap-in birdie and went eight-under. .
Schöffle hit 18 greens in regulation, despite his arrival a bit longer than usual after a mix at tee time after a fast start to his round.
His bogey-free round of 63 was matched by Laird, who was pleased to find some form on the greens at the end.
After recording his lowest PGA Tour round in nearly two years, Laird said, “I’ve been hitting the ball pretty much all year (but) struggling with my putting – just not seeing anything and It’s been a disappointing few months.” , when he last won a tournament.
“It’s nice to finally see a result that matches how I feel I’ve been playing against compared to my score lately.”