‘They’ve turned their back’: Tiger Woods slams LIV Golf in candid Open presser
It seems nothing — not a “high nine-figure offer,” not even the glow of the 150th Open at St. Andrews — is enough to soften Tiger Woods’ stance on LIV Golf.
At his Open Championship media availability on Tuesday, Woods delivered his most pointed criticism yet of the upstart league, singling out both LIV leadership and players for spurning the golf establishment in favor of a quick payday. The majority of the criticisms were levied in the span of a single, 77-second monologue when asked to share his message for the new league’s players.
“As far as … the players who have chosen to go to LIV and to play there, I disagree with it,” Woods said. “I think that what they’ve done is they’ve turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.”
One by one, the 15-time major champ ticked away the reasons many have felt to join the new league, and one by one, he dismissed them.
At the heart of Woods’ concerns were the major championships, which, he pointed out, remain under a cloud of uncertainty for LIV competitors in the long term. It is still unknown whether the Official World Golf Ranking will doll out precious “points” — the currency by which major championship eligibility is largely decided — for the new league.
“Some of these players may not ever get a chance to play in major championships. That is a possibility,” Woods said. “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, to walk down the fairways at Augusta National. That, to me, I just don’t understand it.”
But the majors were far from the only target of Tiger’s disdain. He criticized piece after piece about the new league, from its focus on money to its long-term impact on quality of play. Woods even went as far as to agree with the R&A’s decision to bar Greg Norman from its annual champions dinner (“Greg has done some things that I don’t think are in the best interest of our game. I believe it’s the right thing.”) He seemed particularly miffed by the new league’s competitive spirit, particularly LIV’s fundamental shift to 54-hole events in lieu of traditional, 72-hole tests.
“I just don’t see how, out of 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,” Woods said. “We used to have 36-hole playoffs for major championships. That’s how it used to be — 18-hole U.S. Open playoffs.”
Of course, Woods is a golf historian. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy glowered over his obsession with the nuances of the golf swing, while Woods talked with audible excitement about seeing 1963 Open winner Bob Charles play a practice round at the Old Course.
For a player with Tiger’s zeal for the sport’s past, LIV doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as a major piece of its future. Neither does the decision to leave the PGA Tour, particularly when the primary incentive is guaranteed cash. In many ways, Woods says, those payments fly in the face of the very bedrock of competitive golf.
“I understand what Jack and Arnold did [in leaving the PGA of America to found the PGA Tour] because playing professional golf at a Tour level versus a club pro is different, and I understand that transition and that move and the recognition that a touring pro versus a club pro is,” Woods said. “But what these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice? 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.”
Since LIV’s first days, the league has presented itself as a beacon for improvement in the world of golf. To a man, every member of the new league has in some way referenced “positive change” as a justification for delving into the morally murky waters surrounding its financiers.
This, Tiger said, is LIV’s greatest failing. Golf isn’t stronger for the competition, and neither are its players. Nobody is.
“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,” Woods said. “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.”