By Alan Blinder
Tiger Woods, conspicuously enchanted by his improbable return to his sport’s oldest course, on Tuesday offered a forceful rebuke of the players, past and present, who have aligned themselves with the rebel Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
He chided Greg Norman, the major champion-turned-LIV chief executive, for pursuits that are not “in the best interest of our game” and backed his effective banishment from this year’s British Open at St. Andrews. He said young players who were defecting from the PGA Tour had “turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.” And he cast doubt on whether LIV’s model — 54-hole, no-cut tournaments for players making guaranteed money — would allow golf and its top players to thrive.
“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 a part of it,” Woods, 46, said during a news conference two days before the Open’s scheduled start on Scotland’s coast.
“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,” he added.
Woods avoided explicit condemnations of current players who have joined LIV in exchange for staggering sums, including Sergio García, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, as well as an array of less prominent golfers.
But he pointedly questioned Norman, who has grown so divisive in golf that the R&A, the Open’s organizer, acknowledged over the weekend that it had not invited him to Tuesday’s dinner for past Open champions.
“I know Greg tried to do this back in the early ’90s,” Woods said of Norman’s quest to challenge golf’s long-established order. “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.”
Woods also embraced the R&A’s exile of Norman, who had previously called the decision “petty.”
“Greg has done some things that I don’t think is in the best interest of our game, and we’re coming back to probably the most historic and traditional place in our sport,” Woods said. “I believe it’s the right thing.”
Woods’ case against LIV came as he prepared for what he acknowledged Tuesday could very well be his final Open at his favorite course.
“I’m not going to play a full schedule ever again,” said Woods, who has undergone an aggressive rehabilitation effort since a car wreck in February 2021 that led doctors to consider a leg amputation. “My body just won’t allow me to do that. I don’t know how many Open championships I have left here at St. Andrews, but I wanted this one. It started here for me in ’95, and if it ends here in ’22, it does. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. If I get the chance to play one more, it would be great, but there’s no guarantee.”