ACONDALE, La. (AP) — For this week, at least, Rory McIlroy is focused on “fun” during his first visit to New Orleans for the PGA Tour’s lone team event.

McIlroy and teammate Shane Lowry have their restaurant reservations booked in this city renowned for its dining scene. A stroll down Bourbon Street also is on McIlroy’s agenda, so he can “say I’ve been there and I’ve got the T-shirt and then move on. I don’t think I want to spend too much time down there.”

Soon, however, the No. 2-ranked golfer in the world will be ready to resume exerting his considerable influence over serious matters surrounding the fractured state of men’s professional golf.

McIlroy said Wednesday that he is interested in returning to the PGA Tour’s policy board, from which he resigned abruptly last November.

“I don’t think there’s been much progress made in the last eight months, and I was hopeful that there would be,” McIlroy said, alluding his goal of seeing a formalized unification of the PGA Tour and upstart, Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf.

“I think I could be helpful to the process,” McIlroy said. “But only if people want me involved.”

The PGA Tour and LIV are in merger talks, but they have been protracted, with no clear end in sight. Both tours have continued to operate independently, keeping many of the top names in golf from competing against one another for most of the golf calendar — major tournaments (Masters, US Open, British Open and PGA Championship) excepted.

Meanwhile, the PGA Tour has taken on Strategic Sports Group as a minority investor in a deal that could be worth as much as $3 billion.

Webb Simpson, one of the six player directors on the PGA Tour board and PGA Tour Enterprises board, has submitted a letter saying that he wants to resign as a player director, but only if McIlroy replaces him, according to a person who has seen the letter.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the letter was not made public.

After his pro-am round at the Zurich Classic on Wednesday, McIlroy said he started thinking about returning to the board when Simpson approached him about it.

“I said, ‘Look, if it was something that other people wanted, I would gladly take that seat,’ and that was the conversation that we had,” McIlroy said. “I feel like I care a lot, and I have some pretty good experience and good connections within the game and sort of around the wider sort of ecosystem and everything that’s going on.

“But at the end of the day, it’s not quite up to me to just come back on the board,” he added. “There’s a process that has to be followed.”

The other board members are Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods.

McIlroy said he sees a completed merger of the PGA and LIV tours as “the only way forward for the game of golf.”

He said he aims to promote compromise while also trying “to help people see the benefits of what unification could do for the game and what it could do for this tour in particular.”

“We obviously realize the game is not unified right now for a reason, and there’s still some hard feelings and things that need to be addressed,” McIlroy said. “But I think at this point, for the good of the game, we all need to put those feelings aside and all move forward together.”

In the meantime, the 34-year-old McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, sounds eager to participate in what, for him, is a new event while taking in one of American’s more culturally distinctive cities.

“This is my 17th year as a professional golfer, and to be able to still do things for the first time like play in this event and experience something like this is pretty cool,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy and Shane Lowry, a 37-yearold Irishman, have been teammates before in the Ryder Cup. So, their partnership at the Zurich Classic is not entirely unfamiliar to them.

“We thought it would be fun to team up together again in something like this,” McIlroy said. “Just really excited to spend the week with Shane.

“To sort of relax and play under maybe not the amount of pressure or the stress that we’ve both been under the last couple of weeks I think is a nice thing,” McIlroy said. “It’s nice to be able to rely on a teammate every now and again and bail you out of trouble or know that you don’t have to play perfect golf because you’ve got someone right there beside you.”

Lowry, meanwhile, sounded no less excited to be able to lean on McIlroy’s game at the Pete Dye-designed TPC Louisiana, where the winning team will earn $2.57 million (about $1.29 million each).

“Rory is probably like No. 1 on people’s lists to come play here with,” Lowry said. “We’ll be good for each other on the course. We’ll enjoy doing it, which is a big part of it as well.”

McIlroy and Lowry are one of several high-profile pairs among the 80 teams at the Zurich.

Others include: 2022 champions Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay; Matt Fitzpatrick and younger brother Alex; Collin Morikawa and Kurt Kitayama; Billy Horschel and Tyson Alexander; Sahith Theegala and Will Zalatoris; Fancesco Molinari and Luke Donald; and defending champions Nick Hardy and Davis Riley.

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