Tiger Woods rips LIV Golf players who ‘turned their backs’ on the sport by choosing cash over major championships

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The one voice that has been somewhat absent from the week-to-week PGA Tour-LIV Golf conversation has been perhaps the most important voice in golf. Tiger Woods on Tuesday, ahead of the 150th Open Championship, gave his longest and strongest rejection of the Greg Norman-run, Saudi Arabia-backed league.

Interestingly, Woods’ rationale was not focused on the PGA Tour, the league to which he has belonged for over a quarter century, but rather the major championships. Currently, LIV Golf events do not receive Official World Golf Rankings points, which will make it extremely difficult for its players to play their way into future majors past any exemptions they might currently have.

As a result, this could be the last Open Championship for Sergio Garcia and the last major for others like Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, all of whom are playing for LIV Golf. Neither the major championship organizations nor the OWGR board have made final decisions regarding LIV Golf. Both are very much up in the air.

“I disagree with [players going to LIV],” said Woods. “I think that what they’ve done is they’ve turned their back[s] 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 what it feels 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. 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.”

Tiger seemed to not even be able to understand the concept of a person choosing money over the ability to participate in majors.

“I just don’t understand it,” he said. “I understand what Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnold [Palmer] did 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.

“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.”

Woods’ voice has always carried a ton of weight — that’s how it works when it comes to the most prolific champions — but at St. Andrews for an historic Open, he seemed to be almost sagely, a label he’s never truly been comfortable accepting but will no doubt be thrust upon him in the years to come.

In this instance, it actually felt apropos.

“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 continued. “We used to have 36-hole playoffs for major championships. That’s how it used to be: 18-hole US 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.”

To somebody like Tiger, risking the opportunity to play in future majors is a nonstarter.

Yes, Woods already has it both ways — money and major trophies — but his message was clear on Tuesday at St. Andrews. If given the choice between one or the other, the decision — no matter how much cash is at stake, and it was reportedly a several-hundred-million-dollar offer for him — would be extraordinarily easy.

Money can’t buy chances at majors, and for Woods, those are — and always have been — the most important thing.

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