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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his shot from a bunker on the ninth hole during a practice round at TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday. Image Credit: AFP

Miami: Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy wants talks on a PGA Tour merger deal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) to conclude quickly, saying fans want star golfers reunited.

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Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, in its third campaign, has many star names who defected from the PGA Tour, including reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm and 2023 PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka.

Talks to finalise a framework agreement from last June to unify the PGA and PIF have dragged beyond a December deadline, something McIlroy sees as a factor in television rating declines for PGA signature tournaments, down 30 per cent for last week’s event at Bay Hill.

“I want the train to speed up so we can get this thing over and done with,” McIlroy said Wednesday on the eve of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

Major factor

McIlroy said the PGA’s signature events, with limited fields in big-money showdowns, “are not quite capturing the imagination this year compared to last year”.

“I think it’s because fans are fatigued of what’s going on in the game and I think we need to try to re-engage them in a way that the focus is on the play and not on talking about equity and all the rest of it,” he said.

“The sooner that this is resolved, I think it’s going to be better for the game and better for everyone, the fans and the players.”

McIlroy said a major factor is that LIV and PGA players compete against each another only at major tournaments.

“If I were a fan, I would want to watch the best players compete against each other week in, week out,” McIlroy said.

“If you just unified the game and brought us all back together in some way, that would be great for the fans, I would imagine.

“I think that would then put a positive spin on everything that has happened here, and OK, get together, we all move forward, and I think people could get excited about that.”