Tiger Woods doubles down on what's needed for possible PGA Tour-LIV Golf deal: 'Greg has to go'
NASSAU, Bahamas — Throughout their playing careers—and even well beyond their prime competitive years—the opinions of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were all but gospel as they related to essential decisions being made in professional golf. That includes the formation of the PGA Tour in the late 1960s.
Palmer is gone and Nicklaus, soon to be 83, is still a guiding light, but there is no one today who is looked upon as the most authoritative voice in the game than Tiger Woods.
That is why it was a momentous occasion when the 15-time major winner limped off his private jet in Delaware to attend a players’ only meeting that led to significant changes to the tour’s structure announced a week later by commissioner Jay Monahan, among them the creation of a series of elevated events starting next year.
And that is why, in assessing the convulsions in the game due to the formation of the upstart LIV Golf Series—and what it might take for a possible co-existence between the old tours and the new one—it is a big deal that Woods declared on Tuesday that Greg Norman, the CEO of LIV Golf, cannot be part of the process.
“I think Greg has to go, first of all,” Woods said during a wide-ranging press conference on Tuesday at the Hero World Challenge, the event he hosts and where he planned to compete before a bout of plantar fasciitis forced him to withdraw.
Rory McIlroy was first to the podium with this idea two weeks ago at the DP World Championship in Dubai, but McIlroy has not carried the sport on his back for the last three decades the way Woods has done. Tiger flat out saying that Norman’s role in this affair is a stumbling block to some kind of truce between the two litigating sides precludes a tidy—or near-term—resolution.
Granted, Tiger doesn’t have a direct say in Norman’s future prospects as head of LIV. But it will be worth watching closely how weakened Norman’s position becomes in the coming days as lawsuits proceed and LIV embarks on its second season in February.
“I see that there's an opportunity out there if both organizations put a stay on their litigation,” Woods said when asked about the potential for a truce between the PGA Tour and LIV. “But that's the problem: they've got to put a stay on it. And whether or not they do that or not, there's no willingness to negotiate if you have a litigation against you. So, if they both have a stay and then have a break and then they can meet and figure something out, then maybe there is something to be had.
“But I think Greg has to go, first of all, and then obviously litigation against us and then our countersuit against them, those would then have to be at a stay as well. So then we can talk, we can all talk freely.”
Woods sees what many others in the game see: that Norman appears to have a vendetta against the PGA Tour after then-commissioner Tim Finchem, with an assist from Palmer, quashed his World Tour idea in 1994. LIV Golf is essentially a reformulating of the World Tour venture—cherry picking some of the PGA Tour’s top players for a rival circuit. It’s just that this time the Shark has the deep-pocketed backing of the Saudi’s Public Investment Fund at his disposal.
That Norman and LIV Golf then filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the tour heightened the animosity between the two sides and only seemed to validate the idea that the Shark is out for blood, if you will, in a business sense.
Woods said the two tours cannot co-exist right now, “not with their leadership, not with Greg there and his animosity towards the tour itself. I don't see that happening.
“I think it has to start with leadership on their side,” Woods said. “Understanding that what is happening right now is not in the best … it's not the best fit or future for the whole game of golf. Now, what is the best way for our game to grow? It's not this way. But granted, you need to have the two bodies come together. If one side has so much animosity, someone trying to destroy our tour, then how do you work with that?”
Indeed, how do you work with that? And how can it work, how can the game mend and continue to grow, if the most powerful figure in golf has made his feelings known what needs to happen to prevent golf from further disjunction and disarray?
If Tiger Woods thinks Greg Norman needs to “exit stage left” as McIlroy suggested, well, don’t be surprised if that comes to fruition.