Rory McIlroy admits his relationship with a number of Ryder Cup team-mates has been strained by their defection to LIV Golf.
Five members from last year’s European side joined the Saudi-funded series.
Four of those five – Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Bernd Wiesberger – are playing in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this week.
“I wouldn’t say I have much of a relationship with them right now,” McIlroy, 33, said Thursday.
The world number three’s comment was in response to questions about whether his relationship with Poulter, Westwood and Garcia could specifically survive the current turmoil engulfing top-level men’s professional golf.
Fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell is another of the LIV players who will be in action in Surrey this week.
“My opinion is that they should not be here”
Speaking after his Tour Championship triumph in Atlanta 10 days ago, McIlroy said competing against LIV Golf players at this week’s showpiece DP World Tour event would be “tough for me to stomach”.
McIlroy was more measured in his comments to Wentworth on Wednesday.
“They’re here. They’re playing tournament golf. My opinion is they shouldn’t be here, but again, that’s just my opinion,” he added.
“But if you’re just talking about the Ryder Cup, that’s not the future of the Ryder Cup team. They’ve probably played in 25, 30 Ryder Cups combined, whatever they are.
“The Hojgaards (Rasmus and Nicolai), Bobby Mac (Robert MacIntyre), whoever else is coming. They are the future of the Ryder Cup team. That’s what we should be thinking about and what we should talk.”
McIlroy also couldn’t resist a few digs at the LIV Rebels, who were banned by the PGA Tour for joining the breakaway and its 54-hole events.
Asked about the prospect of facing a LIV player in the final round on Sunday, he said: “I will try to win a golf tournament regardless. They are going to be quite tired on Sunday – it will be day four.”
As for whether LIV players could go back to traditional circuits if they wanted to come back, the four-time major winner said: “I mean they can always go through Q-School, yeah.”
After becoming the first player to win the FedEx Cup three times, which brought him £15.3m, McIlroy is also top of the DP World Tour standings and he says achieving a double would be ‘cool’ .
McIlroy, who won the Wentworth event in 2014, will have further opportunities to boost his chances of securing the European number one spot at next week’s Italian Open in Rome and the event Dunhill Links which will start in Scotland on September 29.
“Even though I won this tournament in May (2014), I enjoyed it more in September,” added McIlroy, who last topped the European season standings in 2015.
“I think the golf course plays a little better for me. He plays a little longer, I can hit a few more drivers.
“I’m on a little run here with Italy next week and Dunhill a bit later. It’s nice to be back on European soil and playing some.”