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Stephen Gallacher: Rory and Tiger teaming up to take on the Great White Shark

Rory McIlroy has Greg Norman in his sights
Rory McIlroy has Greg Norman in his sights

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods spent the weekend on the offensive about LIV Golf and Greg Norman in particular – and I can’t help but wonder what the end game is here.

I thought we had reached a point where LIV Golf would operate in its own bubble while other tours looked after their own interests but it seems the ill-feeling among the players is growing.

Rory decided to go public in an interview with a journalist from an Irish newspaper about a text he said he received from LIV Golf player Sergio Garcia urging him to “shut up about LIV.”

He then told the journalist interviewing him he had responded by “sending back a couple of daggers.”

It’s remarkable. This is Sergio and Rory we’re talking about. Ryder Cup team-mates who attended each other’s wedding.

No-one would have thought relations would be frosty between them in 2022 yet here we are.

Happier times: Sergio Garcia, right, celebrates with playing partner Rory McIlroy at Gleneagles in 2014

But Sergio is the not the man who seems to be dominating Rory’s thoughts, or Tiger for that matter.

No, that honour has been reserved for LIV Golf commissioner and CEO Greg Norman.

Rory is a dream interview subject for the media. Honest to a fault, he has never been shy in telling you exactly how he feels about a subject.

He wears his heart on his sleeve but he has been prone to the odd slip of the tongue in the past and no doubt privately regretted a few things he has said.

But I don’t get the impression he regrets much he has said about Norman.

He can’t seem to go a week without mentioning the two-time former Open champion and is clearly a strong opposing voice against LIV.

It is clear the threat of LIV is growing.

They are taking Valderrama away from the DP World Tour onto their schedule next year and it all feels like the latest move in a sporting hostile takeover.

Rory and Norman unlikely to make up anytime soon

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman

We can all see there is no love lost between Norman and Rory either with the Australian claiming Rory has been brainwashed against the Saudi-backed LIV tour.

That irked Rory who, as a result of Norman’s comment, now insists he has made it his mission to be as much of a pain in the backside for the outspoken Norman as possible.

He teases and torments Norman every chance he gets.

When he won the RBC Canadian Open in the summer it was his 21st PGA Tour win of his career. “One more than someone else,” Rory remarked.

He’s also said he wants to spend 332 weeks at world number one by the end of his career. It would be one week longer than Norman achieved in his career.

But, having now upped the ante by saying it’s time for Norman to step aside at LIV he has found the most vocal supporter of all in Tiger who has echoed Rory’s comments.

Let’s be clear here – Tiger isn’t Rory. He chooses every word carefully.

Tiger Woods has backed Rory McIlroy in urging Greg Norman to step down from LIV Golf.

Last week Tiger revealed he had undergone a couple of operations but refused to expand when pressed further.

I look at Tiger as a guy who plays chess with his comments. He’s normally three moves ahead too whenever he talks so I’m fascinated to see where this is all heading.

No doubt we’ll find out soon enough.

Japan Golf Tour a welcome addition to the DP World Tour

As LIV Golf looms large over the professional game it’s great to see the other tours continuing to forge stronger links this week.

Japan Golf Tour has become an official partner of DP World Tour and the PGA Tour and it’s another important development.

We know how much golf in Asia has been booming for the last 30 years and the Japan Golf Tour offers the third largest purses in professional golf so it’s clearly a big player.

There had been whispers of LIV being interested in partnering with them but they have opted to get on board with us and the PGA. They have joined a group which also includes South Africa and Australia and it’s great to have another prestigious tour on board.

This development helps grow all the brands and makes them more robust, but crucially for players it offers a pathway all the way from Japan to the PGA Tour.

The top three on Japan Golf Tour next season will all gain DP World Tour cards for 2024 and that opens the door for a potential PGA Tour card down the line.

Having more places to play, more prize money to compete for and more tournaments up for grabs can only be a good thing for the game.

Next year is going to be a big one for Hovland

Viktor Hovland is one to watch in 2023. Image: PA.

I must give Viktor Hovland his due this week following an excellent win at the Hero World Championship in the Bahamas.

He’s only the second man to retain the title following in Tiger Woods’ footsteps and you can’t ask for much more than that.

He’s become a serial winner now and there’s no doubting his talent.

I’m sure Europe captain Luke Donald is absolutely thrilled to see one of the guys, who will be a nailed on certainty surely to be in his team, playing well and beating the top-class field of the calibre which assembled for the event.

It might be stating the obvious but it looks like 2023 could be a big year for the Norwegian.