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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in action during the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai. Image Credit: AFP

Bengaluru: Rory McIlroy concedes he has “changed his tune” on the issue of LIV golfers returning to play on the PGA Tour, with the four-time major champion now saying they should be able to come back without being punished.

The Northern Irishman has been a vocal critic of the breakaway tour since it launched in 2022 and signed up a host of big names, causing a rift that threatened to tear golf apart.

McIlroy previously accused some of those who jumped ship as being duplicitous and that he would rather retire than join the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway circuit.

Softened his stand

However, with negotiations on a merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf ongoing, and McIlroy’s Ryder Cup teammates Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton making the switch to LIV, the 34-year-old has recently softened his position on the rival tour.

“I think life is about choices. Guys made choices to go and play LIV, guys made choices to stay here,” he told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am tournament.

“I think it’s hard to punish people. I don’t think there should be a punishment.

“If people still have eligibility on this tour and they want to come back and play or you want to try and do something, let them come back.

“Obviously, I’ve changed my tune on that because I see where golf is and I see that having a diminished PGA Tour and having a diminished LIV Tour or anything else is bad for both parties,” McIlroy added.

Englishman Hatton is the latest big name to join LIV, the world No 16 set to be part of an expansion team captained by Masters champion Rahm.

“I had a long talk with Tyrrell on Sunday, completely understood where he was coming from,” McIlroy said.

“It got to the point where they negotiated and got to a place he was comfortable with and he has to do what he feels is right for him. I’m not going to stand in anyone’s way from making money and if what they deem life-changing money.”