Rory McIlroy believes elite golf can come together again despite the continuing bitterness between the established tours and upstart LIV Golf.
The arrival of the Saudi-backed series has fractured the game this year, with a number of the world’s top players switching to the lucrative new circuit.
McIlroy, the world number two, has been a strong critic of LIV and has repeatedly bemoaned its impact on the sport but he remains optimistic a harmonious way forward can be found.
The Northern Irishman told BBC Sport: “I’m just a golfer but the powers-that-be need to sit down and have a conversation. Right now with two lawsuits going on, and how heightened the rhetoric has been, I think we just need to let it cool off a little bit.
“While that is trundling on I can’t see anything happening. It has been an ugly year but there is a solution to everything. If we can send rockets to the moon and bring them back again and have them land on their own I’m sure we can figure out how to make professional golf cohesive again.”
McIlroy was speaking at St Andrews ahead of this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. It is the 33-year-old’s first return to the Old Course since narrowly missing out on a fifth Major title at the Open in July.
McIlroy had held a share of the lead with Viktor Hovland heading into the final round but, despite shooting 70, he was pipped as Australian Cameron Smith came from four strokes behind to snatch glory.
McIlroy responded by winning the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup play-off series.
“I feel like time and time again, I’ve been able to bounce back from some adversity,” said McIlroy, who has also finished second and fourth on his last two DP World Tour appearances.
“I think once the Open was done, I just reset my goals on what I thought a successful season would look like and that’s what I went off and that’s what I was able to achieve.”
McIlroy is eyeing another victory this week at an event which features rounds at Kingsbarns and Carnoustie as well as two at St Andrews.
“I don’t think it would quite make up for missing out on a Claret Jug but it would certainly soften the blow,” said McIlroy, who will play alongside his father under the tournament’s pro-am format.
Fellow Irishman Shane Lowry arrives in Scotland in form after his victory at the at the BMW PGA Championship earlier this month.
The 2019 Open champion said: “I’d love to win at St Andrews and to win this tournament would be very special, and it would definitely be another box ticked in my career. It’s definitely one of the places you’d love to win.”
Danny Willett returns to defend his title while Tyrell Hatton, twice winner and two-time runner-up, is also in the field.
Guido Migliozzi features after winning at the Open de France last week, as does runner-up Rasmus Hojgaard.
A number of LIV-affiliated players are involved including Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Talor Gooch. Patrick Reed had been due to play but withdrew due to injury earlier this week.
LIV, meanwhile, could secure coveted broadcast rights with Fox in an unusual airtime purchase agreement with the network, Golfweek reported. LIV’s 54-hole events have been streamed on YouTube and on the new tour’s website.
Commissioner Greg Norman said LIV had talks with multiple networks about bringing LIV events to an expanded audience. Five events have been played this year and there are three more on the schedule, with a $50 million season finale in Miami in October.
Most sports broadcasting rights deals are done in reverse of this one: The network pays for the rights to air events. For example, the Big Ten Conference secured a new rights deal with multiple networks that could potentially pay $7 billion over seven years starting next summer.
The PGA Tour media rights deal, which includes international rights, is worth $6.3 billion over nine years. But LIV will reportedly pay FOX as if it were an advertiser and also be responsible for production and ad sales during the events, chores that typically are assigned to the network.