On the eve of the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event at Centurion Club in Hertfordshire, McIlroy was preparing to defend the RBC Canadian Open he won back in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic placed the tournament on hold.
RBC has ended its sponsorship of Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell over their participation in the rival circuit, and although McIlroy was again reluctant to criticise the likes of former Ryder Cup team-mate McDowell, he reiterated his opposition to the project.
“I think my stance on it has been pretty clear from the start,” McIlroy said. “It’s not something that I want to participate in. I’m certainly not knocking anyone for going. It’s their life, it’s their decision, they can live it the way they want to.
“But for me I want to play on the PGA Tour against the best players in the world. And I think for me, any decision that you make in your life that’s purely for money, usually doesn’t end up going the right way.
“Obviously money is a deciding factor in a lot of things in this world, but if it’s purely for money it never seems to go the way you want it to.”
Asked for a personal example, McIlroy referenced the early part of his career when he would be guaranteed more from an appearance fee than he could win on the course.
“Where’s the incentive to go and play well?” he added. “I felt flat. We all know why everyone’s playing in London this week, it’s boatloads of cash and it’s money up front and I get it. For some guys I totally get it.
“I think they’re thinking very short-term. Some of these guys are younger than me and have their whole careers ahead of them. That’s the thing I don’t get.
“Everyone has to do what’s right for themselves and who are we to say otherwise. I’m happy with what I’m doing and playing in a golf tournament and not just following all the drama on Twitter.”
McIlroy brushed off criticism from LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman that he had been “brainwashed” into supporting the PGA Tour and hopes that the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia will be able to continue in the Ryder Cup, despite their involvement with the breakaway circuit.
“Yes, I think they should be able to,” he added. “They’ve been such a part of the Ryder Cup and look at the history Poults has at the Ryder Cup.
“It would be such a shame for him not to be involved going forward.
“It’s hard because they are playing in defiance of the Tour but I think everyone needs to get in a room and figure it out.
“I feel like the professional game was on a nice trajectory where everything was becoming more cohesive and now it’s becoming more fractured again and I don’t think that’s a good thing.”
And three years to the day since he lifted the trophy, McIlroy will finally begin the defence of his RBC Canadian Open title on Thursday.
McIlroy carded a stunning final round of 61 at Hamilton Golf and Country Club to seal a seven-shot triumph in 2019, but has been prevented from seeking back-to-back wins due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
To put the time gap into context, three of the world’s current top 10 were not even PGA Tour members at the time of McIlroy’s win.
World number one Scottie Scheffler missed the cut at the previous week’s event on the Korn Ferry Tour, Open champion Collin Morikawa made his professional debut in Canada on a sponsor’s exemption and world number seven Viktor Hovland was low amateur at the following week’s US Open.
“It’s great to be back in Canada, first and foremost,” McIlroy said in a press conference at St George’s Golf and Country Club, some 45 miles north of the site of his victory in 2019. “It’s obviously been a while since this championship’s been played. I think everyone I’ve spoken to, everyone that I’ve seen out on the golf course is really excited for the Canadian Open to be back and just for live sporting events in general to be back on in this country.
“I’m excited to be back, excited to finally defend my title from three years ago at Hamilton and yeah, wonderful memories from that week.
“I was playing really well coming into it, got myself in another position after the Saturday night and then just really took advantage of that position on Sunday and went out with the mindset of being aggressive and really trying to take the tournament by the scruff of the neck, I guess, and I was able to do that.
“It was a really fun day, I had a chance to shoot 59 there on the back nine, which was really cool.
“It’s not a position you find yourself in very often, so it was just some great memories, some great golf played and certainly one of the highlights of 2019 for me.”
Asked about adapting to a different venue in 2022, McIlroy added: “(There are) a few similarities to Hamilton in a way.
“The greens are probably a little more undulating and slopey here than Hamilton. Probably the golf course in general just has a little more movement to it.
“But I love it, it’s a great set-up. It’s penal if you miss the fairways, it’s thick rough. You have to keep the ball below the hole on the greens. It’s a really good golf course.
“I’ve only played 18 holes, I’ll learn a little bit more about it as the week goes on, but you’ve got to put it in position off the tee and then you just have to be really smart with your second shots.
“You can be too aggressive. I left the ball, not knowing today, above a few of the hole positions and it’s hard to get those putts within 10 feet. So it really is about keeping the ball below the hole.
“The guy that does that the best this week is probably going to come out on top.”