Tiger Woods has launched an impassioned defense of golf’s status quo against the threat from the rebel LIV tour. As he prepares at St Andrews for the 150th Open Championship, Woods delivered unprecedented criticism of Greg Norman, who is fronting the LIV scheme, and players who have chosen to feature on that circuit for guaranteed cash.
“To play there, I disagree with it,” said Woods. “They’ve turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.”
Woods regards the LIV concept, that involves three rounds and no cut, as not valid in a competitive sense. “What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practise?” I have asked. “What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt?
“You’re just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes. I can understand 54 holes is almost like a mandate when you get to the senior tour. The guys are a little bit older and a little more banged up. But when you’re at this young age and some of these kids – they really are kids who have gone from amateur golf into that organization – 72-hole tests are part of it.”
In what will be widely viewed as a point made with the benefit of inside knowledge, Woods floated the concept of LIV golfers remaining shut out from the world rankings and missing out on major appearances as a result. The board of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) will meet at St Andrews on Wednesday, with LIV’s bid to earn status the key point for discussion. All four majors are represented on that panel.
The Saudi Arabia-backed scheme appears to fall short in numerous ways, including average field size and compatibility with OWGR rules for at least a year. Woods’s comments sounded pointed in this respect. “Who knows what’s going to happen in the near future with world ranking points, the criteria for entering major championships,” he said. “The governing bodies are going to have to figure that out.
“Some of these players may not ever get a chance to play in major championships. We don’t know that for sure yet. It’s up to all the major championship bodies to make that determination. But that is a possibility, that some players will never, ever get a chance to play in a major championship, never get a chance to experience this right here, walk down the fairways at Augusta National.
“I just don’t see how that move is positive in the long term for a lot of these players, especially if the LIV organization doesn’t get world ranking points and the major championships change their criteria for entering the events.
“It would be sad to see some of these young kids never get a chance to experience it and experience what we’ve got a chance to experience and walk these hallowed grounds and play in these championships.”
Norman, a two-time major winner, was not invited to St Andrews to form part of celebratory events for past champions. Woods backed the decision of the R&A. “Greg has done some things that I don’t think he is in the best interest of our game,” he said. “We’re back to probably the most historic and traditional place in our sport. I believe it’s the right thing.”
Pressed on what elements of Norman’s behavior trouble him, Woods said: “I know what the PGA Tour stands for and what we have done and what the Tour has given us; the ability to chase after our careers and to earn what we get and the trophies we have been able to play for and the history that has been a part of this game.
“I know Greg tried to do this back in the early ’90s. It didn’t work then and he’s trying to make it work now. I still don’t see how that’s in the best interests of the game. What the European Tour and what the PGA Tour stands for and what they’ve done, and also all the governing bodies of the game of golf and all the major championships, how they run it. I think they see it differently than what Greg sees it.”
Rory McIlroy had already endorsed the R&A’s position on Norman before Woods took to the podium. “It’s the 150th Open Championship and that’s what we need to focus on,” he said. “I think the focus would have been taken away a little bit if he’d have been here.
“Because of everything that’s happening in the golf world it was the right decision. But if things change in the future, I could see a day where he’s certainly welcome back.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism