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Full Swing: Rory McIlroy on LIV defectors and his PGA TOUR legacy

As a four-time major winner, Rory McIlroy will forever be remembered as one of the golfers of his generation.

But it’s not just the impact he’s had on the golf course that has made McIlroy the most popular player on the PGA TOUR, and even – in the absence of Tiger Woods – the face of the PGA TOUR.

While McIlroy has always spoken his mind – an endearing quality in itself of a top athlete – the way he’s handled the prevalence of LIV Golf has seen his popularity increase even further.

And it’s not just the fans McIlroy is popular with; we see Tony Finau - who's known McIlroy since childhood - being asked what it is he likes about McIlroy, talking about how kind-hearted and genuine he is, but also that those qualities have never left the Northern Irishman.

Early in the eighth and final episode of Full Swing, Everything Had Led to This, McIlroy says that he’s a big fan of the history of the game, which may go some way to explaining why he’s so protective over its future.

McIlroy has been at the forefront of the TOUR’s efforts to reduce the threat of LIV Golf, a controversial breakaway tour that has seen a handful of leading players defect.

We see Rory McIlroy battle with Cameron Smith – a player strongly rumoured to be joining LIV; rumours which were confirmed a couple of months later – for The Open at St Andrews, with the Australian coming out on top.

The duel served as a metaphor for the golfing landscape at the time: McIlroy v Smith; PGA TOUR v LIV Golf. On that occasion, LIV came out on top, with McIlroy left to lick his wounds, seeing another major slip through his fingers. 

In recent months, the animosity between McIlroy and Patrick Reed has ramped up, and while neither McIlroy or Reed are the type to bite their tongue, we see a little more about what McIlroy thinks of Reed’s defection to LIV. 

Reed held off McIlroy to win the 2018 Masters – the one major McIlroy is yet to win. The two also went head-to-head in the Sunday singles at the 2016 Ryder Cup, playing out perhaps the greatest Ryder Cup match of all time, with Reed coming out on top on that occasion too.

Throughout the episode, viewers see McIlroy’s more candid thoughts on the situation and the players leaving the PGA TOUR, as he comes to terms with the mini-exodus. As the PGA TOUR reaches its season-ending TOUR Championship, he hears there are 17 players set to join LIV, but manages to get a little jibe in about Reed's new playing schedule.

When being massaged after the second round, the topic of conversation turns to American football, with McIlroy jokingly having a dig at Phil Mickelson.

Though McIlroy jokes, his crusade to preserve the PGA TOUR is very serious, but we do see some of the other side of the argument, and the reported money being offered to players to join LIV was eye-watering, even for the mega-rich PGA TOUR stars.

Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Ian Poulter talk about their reasons for joining LIV, though it remains hard not to be cynical about their true motivations.

And McIlroy will always look beyond that. He’s insisted that money-led decisions don’t always work out, having made them in the past, and his focus now is not on himself, but on the sport as a whole.

McIlroy talks about correspondence he received from two of the game's greats after his 2011 US Open win - Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer - and acknowledges that his profile leaves him with different responsibilities to most of the tour, and they're responsibilities he's treated with the utmost dedication.

bet365 are the Official Betting Operator of the PGA TOUR, and you can watch all eight episodes of Full Swing exclusively on Netflix from 15th February.

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