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British Open 2022: Tiger Woods sounds off on LIV Golf

July 12, 2022

Harry How

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Tiger Woods is firmly anti-LIV Golf. It comes as no surprise, of course. He’s said so a few times before this week’s Open Championship, and he played an integral role—the integral role?—in building the PGA Tour into what it is today.

And yet, given the setting and the context—at the Home of Golf, for the 150th playing of the sport's oldest championship, with LIV having two events under its belt and plenty of big-names on its payroll—Woods wanted to make his message extra clear Tuesday at the Old Course. He thinks this is bad for golf, and he can’t wrap his head around the direction LIV wants to take the game.

“I disagree with it,” Woods said of players’ decision to sign with the Saudi-backed league, which has driven a wedge in the men’s game by luring top stars with massive guaranteed paydays. “I think that what they've done is they've turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position. … Some of these players may not ever get a chance to play in major championships. That is a possibility. 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. That, to me, I just don't understand it.”

Woods’ measured rejection of the Greg Norman-fronted series did not touch on ethical concerns of going into business with the Saudi government, which is financially bankrolling the endeavor. Which, of course, is not to say he doesn’t feel wary about it. But Woods is a competitor first, second and third. He believes his extraordinary wealth has come only as a byproduct of his on-course success, and he views LIV’s structure as essentially anti-competitive.

“What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice?” Woods said. “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. They're playing blaring music and have all these atmospheres that are different. I can understand 54 holes is almost like a mandate when you get to the senior tour. The guys are 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. We used to have 36-hole playoffs for major championships. That's how it used to be, 18-hole U.S. Open playoffs.

“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.”

Woods’ comments come days after the R&A announced it had asked Norman not to attend the festivities at St. Andrews this week for fear that his presence might shift focus away from such an historic occasion. Rory McIlroy, who has been similarly pro-PGA Tour, said Tuesday that he agreed with the R&A, and Woods echoed that sentiment.

“The R&A obviously have their opinions and their rulings and their decision,” Woods said. “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. I believe it's the right thing.”

Woods continued: “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 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.”

Despite his wholehearted rejection of LIV, Woods said he feels optimistic about the game’s future.

“We're in the greatest golf boom ever right now because of COVID,” Woods said. “It's allowed us as a sport to get outside and be outside and to participate and do some physical activity and get out of the house and still not worry about COVID.

“And so because of that, golf has been on an incline and on a boost that we've never seen before, and I hope it continues that way. There's so many new, young golfers that are coming up. Just look at the tour, the average age is getting younger and younger, and they're just getting better earlier and faster and they're winning at earlier ages. I was always told that you don't peak until your late 20s, early 30s, but you're seeing guys win championships in early 20s now and doing it consistently. So the game has gotten better, and it's only going to continue to get that way. I hope that we all understand that and continue the growth of the game in a positive way.”

Woods has won two of his three Open Championships at St. Andrews and will begin his tournament at 2:59 p.m. local/9:59 a.m. EST alongside Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa.