Asked about rival leagues, Tiger Woods throws support behind PGA Tour
It’s been a minute since we last heard Tiger Woods speak. In fact, it’s been about 400,000 of them, give or take. The last time Tiger addressed the media, it was late February, and the 15-time major champion was expounding pessimistically upon yet another back procedure from his perch as tournament host at the Genesis Invitational.
“God I hope so,” Woods said at the time of his chances of playing in the Masters. “I got to get there first. A lot of it is based on my surgeons and my doctors and my therapists and making sure I do it correctly because this is the only back I got so I don’t have much more wiggle room left here.”
It’s a woeful understatement to say that a lot has changed in the time since then, both for Tiger and for the golf world. But given the last nine months of relative silence from the Woods camp, less clear is how Tiger feels about those changes.
On the topic of golf, perhaps the biggest change of these last nine months surrounds Greg Norman’s golf startup, currently operating under the name LIV Golf Investments, which is rumored to be staging a tour of its own to run in direct competition to the PGA Tour. In recent months, a host of names have surfaced in connection with the rumored league, which is reported to be offering large sums of guaranteed money to players in an effort to woo them over.
In his return presser on Tuesday at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger was asked about the new league for the first time. He was clearly prepared for the question, rifling off a 203-word answer in which he touched on the growing challenge to the PGA Tour, the historical context for upstart golf tours, and his views on PGA Tour leadership. As for the biggest question — whether Woods would consider leaving the Tour for the new league — his denial was nothing shy of categorical.
“I’ve decided for myself that I’m supporting the PGA Tour, that’s where my legacy is,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have won 82 events on this tour and 15 major championships and been a part of the World Golf Championships, the start of them and the end of them. So I have an allegiance to the PGA Tour.”
This isn’t the first time that golf has faced an anti-establishment groundswell. Norman famously attempted to start his own league in the 90s, even recruiting a television deal to help finance the league before it folded in the face of the PGA Tour’s defense posturing headed by then-commissioner Tim Finchem. And, as Tiger pointed out, even the Tour itself once started as a rebellion.
“I understand that some of the comparisons are very similar to when Arnold and Jack broke off from the PGA of America to start the Tour. I don’t see it that way,” he said. “I think the Tour has done a fantastic job, Jay’s done an unbelievable job during a very difficult time during the pandemic when there was ample opportunities for players to leave, but we were the first sporting tour to start.”
The PGA Tour’s all-time win co-leader has long been effusive in his praise of the circuit he helped build. His 82 victories have more or less written the history of the Tour. Those looking elsewhere might find a bigger guaranteed check, but in Woods’ eyes, that’s a small price to pay for something far more valuable.
“So with that, yes, did we have some protocol issues at times? Yes, we had to learn on the fly, but Jay and the staff had done an incredible job of that,” Tiger said. “I think the Tour is in great hands, they’re doing fantastic, and prize money’s going up. It’s just not guaranteed money like most sports are. It’s just like tennis, you have to go out there and earn it.”
Sure, anything can happen in a minute, but for the present one? Tiger isn’t going anywhere.