Tiger Woods condemns Greg Norman, LIV Golf at British Open

SAINT ANDREWS, Scotland — Tiger Woods has arrived at the crazy-historic 150th British Open and has brought along his voice, all earned and found and seasoned. He sounded statesmanlike on Tuesday morning as he spoke without reluctance about the blaring, glaring issue disrupting his sport: the breakaway, Saudi-funded LIV Tour. He even recoiled at the idea of ​​loud music.

He started early at his news conference, fielding a question about the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews’s decision to disinvite Greg Norman because of the distracting noise Norman’s presence might cause given his chairmanship of the LIV Tour.

“The R&A obviously have their opinions and their rulings and their decisions,” Woods said. “Greg has done some things that I don’t think are 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.”

He specified a few answers later: “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 (a rival tour) back in the early ’90s. It didn’t work then, and he’s trying to make it work now.

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“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 the professionals — all the 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.”

And he did not flinch in his calm answer to a question about the cluster of players who have defected already, and who include major winners Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen.

“I disagree with it,” Woods said. “I think what they’ve done is they’ve turned their backs on what has allowed them to get to this position. Some players have never got a chance to even experience it. They’ve gone right from the amateur ranks right into that organization and never really got a chance to play out here and feel what it’s like to play a tour schedule or to play in some big events. And who knows what’s going to happen in the near future with world-ranking points, the criteria for entering major championships. The governing body is going to have to figure that out.

“Some of these players may not ever get a chance to play in major championships. … 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, (or) walk down the fairways at Augusta National. That, to me, I just don’t understand it.

“I understand what Jack (Nicklaus) and Arnold (Palmer) did (when they started the PGA Tour in the late 1960s) because playing professional golf at a tour level versus a club pro (level) is different, and I understand that transition and that move and the recognition that a touring pro versus a club pro is.

“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.”

He trolled ever so gently.

“I can understand 54 holes is almost like a mandate when you get to the Senior Tour. The guys are a little 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 … 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.”

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Woods did pronounce himself “very optimistic” about the sport’s future, noting “the greatest golf boom ever right now because of covid,” and how golf became an outdoor respite from indoor isolation. “Just look at the tour,” he said, “the average age is getting younger and younger, and they’re just getting better earlier and faster and they’re winning at earlier ages.

He spoke at length about the most hallowed of those grounds, Saint Andrews, as it celebrates an anniversary with the number “150” omnipresent on shirts and signs around here. “It is my favorite,” he said of the course, and he recalled playing the 1995 event as an amateur alongside Ernie Els and Peter Jacobsen the first two days. He spoke of how the timelessness has outweighed the technology, so that with rude winds on Tuesday, “On 10, I hit a 6-iron from 120 yards.”

And he spoke as an oldster when he said, “And with the fairways being fast and firm, it allows players who are older to run the ball out there and have a chance.”

This course will not challenge his body as did the severe undulations of Augusta National at the Masters in April or the slopes of Southern Hills in Tulsa at the PGA Championship in May. In those cases, the walking bested the golfing as a challenge to a lower right leg damaged and infused with hardware after his frightening car crash in California in February 2021.

“It’s still not easy,” he said. “Granted, the inclines are not steep in any way. They’re not — the declines are not steep. But it’s the unevenness that is still difficult on me. I have a lot of hardware in my leg. He said, “Playing Augusta, I didn’t know. My leg was not in any condition to play 72 holes. It just ran out of gas. But it’s different now. It’s gotten a lot stronger, a lot better.”

Where once he came here and ordered a wooden plank to his room to harden the mattress for his back, he said, now he orders “more ice.”

At the end, he took another question apt for a statesman, about whether he believes the new generation shares his appreciation for history. And while he said they could check history in their phones nowadays, he waxed more about the golf history he knows. “I saw Bob Charles out there on 18 hitting,” he said. “I think he won in ’63 (accurate) or something like that. Just to be able to see that in person, live, god, it was so special. I just hope the kids appreciate that.” He ended, “Nothing’s ever given to you. You have to go out there and earn it, and I earned it through the dirt. I’m very proud of that.”

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