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LIV Golfers returning to PGA Tour: Justin Thomas differs from Rory McIlroy

Ahead of this week’s WM Phoenix Open, Justin Thomas shared his thoughts about the potential return of LIV golfers to the PGA Tour.

Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, 2023 PGA Championship
Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas during the first round of the 2023 PGA Championship.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

A significant disparity exists among the top players on the PGA Tour.

Last week at Pebble Beach, Rory McIlroy called for unity amid today’s great golf schism, saying LIV golfers should “come back” if they still have eligibility on the PGA Tour.

Justin Thomas, meanwhile, disagrees.

“I would say that there’s a handful of players on LIV that would make the PGA Tour a better place, but I’m definitely not in agreement that they should just be able to come back that easily,” Thomas said Tuesday ahead of the WM Phoenix Open.

“I think there’s a scenario somewhere, whatever it is, down the road of some version of some guys being back, but I have no idea when and what that is.”

Since last June, when the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour, and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF)—LIV Golf’s beneficiary—signed a framework agreement, the big question within professional golf is, ‘What will unity look like?’

Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Justin Thomas hits a tee shot at the 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am while Jordan Spieth looks on.
Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA Tour via Getty Images

Nobody knows the answer, nor does anyone know how an agreement between the PIF, the PGA Tour, and the DP World Tour will shape out. It could all fall apart, too, especially now that the PGA Tour received a $3 billion investment from the Strategic Sports Group.

Regardless of what happens, McIlroy still has a dream.

He called for a world tour at last month’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic. In his mind, the top players would traverse the world, playing marquee courses in front of fans often neglected by the PGA Tour.

“Whether [events] are rotated on the new global circuit, or we go with the same ones every year, I’m okay with either,” McIlroy said in January.

“The Australian Open, for example, should almost be the fifth major. The market down there is huge with potential. They love golf. They love sport. They have been starved of top-level golf. And the courses are so good...

“The South African Open is another I’d have in the mix. Then you have places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. What a market Japan represents. That would be another opportunity... Throw in the four majors, and you have a brilliant schedule for the top 70-to-100 guys, whatever the number is.”

Funny enough, LIV Golf has staged events in Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Middle East since its inception in 2022. The Saudi-backed circuit prides itself on being a global tour, catering to fans worldwide.

Rory McIlroy, PGA Tour, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Rory McIlroy during the third round of the 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images

But settling the score between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour is not as easy as creating a global tour. Dozens of LIV players accepted millions of dollars from the PIF; some even sued the tour, while others made disparaging comments towards PGA Tour players and brass.

“I think there are a lot of us that made sacrifices and were very—whether it’s true to our word or what we believe in or just didn’t make that decision, and I understand that things are changing and things are getting better, but it just would—I would have a hard time with [players returning],” Thomas added Tuesday.

“I think a lot of guys would have a hard time with it, and I’m sure we don’t need to convince you why we would have a hard time with it.”

Indeed, the opinions among top players are undoubtedly mixed. Heck, Jordan Spieth dialed McIlroy last week to discuss their differences in opinion. Spieth went as far as to say that a deal with PIF is “not needed.”

Nevertheless, if the PGA Tour wants to strike a deal with the PIF, all its members must be on the same page.

Right now, a book of pages lies between two of the tour’s most popular players, McIlroy and Thomas, and surely, other top players have different feelings on this matter, too.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.