Rory McIlroy: No talk of asterisk necessary for Masters

Rory McIlroy is missing only the championship at the Masters Tournament to become the sixth golfer to win a career Grand Slam on the PGA Tour.

And speaking Wednesday in advance of the Cognizant Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., he assured the Masters title will be the real deal if and when it comes. In fact, he cast aside comments from LIV Golf League member Talor Gooch, who told Australian Golf Digest this week that the Masters is tainted because top-flight LIV players aren’t being allowed to compete, ineligible to earn rankings points.

In fact, Gooch said, should McIlroy win, the career Grand Slam should come with an asterisk. Gooch’s comments came after he wasn’t issued one of three invitations doled out by Augusta National Golf Club, including one that went to LIV’s Joaquin Niemann of Chile.

McIlroy disagreed.

“And the asterisk, look, the Masters is an Invitational and they’ll invite whoever they think warrants an invite,” McIlroy said. “I think to be fair to Talor, if you read the entire — the question and then the answer, it’s not as if he just came out with that.

“I feel like whoever did the interview led him down that path to say that, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt there a little bit. He just agreed with what the interviewer asked.”

Regardless of that question and answer, it was clear by McIlroy’s comments Wednesday that he still covets the green jacket at Augusta. His best Masters finish came in 2022 when he placed second. He missed the cut last year.

McIlroy, 34, is in his 17th season as a pro. He has won 24 PGA Tour events. He said he sees himself “maybe on the 10th green or 11th tee” of his career and expects to have the same hunger for 10 years. Unless…

“Or a green jacket and just walk away,” the Northern Irishman said.

Speculation has been flying that McIlroy himself would join the big-money LIV Golf, and that would be easier for him with the green jacket in hand. It became a talking point when his former agent, Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, opined recently there was a 10 percent chance that McIlroy would switch allegiances.

“I think he’s writing a book, so there is that,” McIlroy said with a smile. “I spoke to Chubby, might have saw him in the Middle East at the start of the year. Never know. He might know a few things. Who knows.”

Before that, there’s the matter of the Cognizant Classic, a tournament McIlroy hasn’t entered since 2018. He won in 2012, holding off Tiger Woods and moving to No. 1 in the world.

He said this year’s schedule helped to fit in this tournament, which used to be The Honda Classic.

“The field has, or the tournament has struggled, to attract a really strong field here the last number of years,” he said. “Then with a new sponsor coming in in Cognizant, I thought it would be a good time to step up and show some support for the tournament.”