ST ANDREWS, Scotland: Rory McIlroy believes it would be best for the game of golf if he were to win The 150th Open but said on Tuesday he would not begrudge a player from the rebel LIV Invitational Series if they were to claim the Claret Jug.
The image of a golfer from the breakaway circuit hoisting the treasured trophy in the Sunday twilight at the Home of Golf would be a powerful one and a marketing coup for the LIV Series which has branded itself as the new era for golf.
Despite a steady exodus of high-profile members, including major winners Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka to the controversial Saudi-back venture, the PGA and DP Tours have boasted their tournament fields remain the best the sport can offer.
That claim would suffer if a player from the LIV Series were to walk away with golf's most famous trophy.
"Selfishly, for me, yes, I think it would be better for the game," McIlroy told reporters. "But at the end of the day, everyone that's here has the same opportunity to go out there and try to win a Claret Jug, regardless of what Tour they play on or whatever that is.
"I'm not going to begrudge anyone if they win the Claret Jug and they play on a different Tour than I play."
McIlroy has been one of the PGA Tour's most vocal supporters and one of the golf's in form players coming into The Open making the Northern Irishman the hot betting favourite and potentially the ideal champion.
The four-times major winner has not been shy about sharing his opinions about the LIV Series taking shots at some of those who have jumped to the big-money circuit and CEO Greg Norman, a twice Open champion who has been told by organisers the Royal & Ancient to stay away so as not to distract from the 150th anniversary celebrations.
With two wins this season and top 10 finishes at the three majors, including a runner-up result at the Masters, McIlroy is also seen as the man to beat at St. Andrews.
"I'm playing well. I'm in good form," he said. "My confidence in my game is as high as it's been in quite a while.
"I can't go in here thinking that this might be my time. I just have to go out and play a really good tournament.
"To hear your name and winner of the gold medal, Champion Golfer of the Year, it's what dreams are made of." -- Reuters