The 46-year-old American Tiger Woods, winner of 148 competitions (110 of them as a professional, since 1996) – including 15 of the four ‘major’ tournaments in his career – criticized his current rivals in Scotland who accepted to play the LIV Golf Series, with much fatter prizes than the PGA circuit in North America, Europe or Asia, accusing them of ingratitude and short memory.
In the mythical field of Saint Andrews (Scotland) for another ‘major’, the 150th edition of The Open Championship, during four days from Thursday, the 14th, to Sunday, the 15th of this month, one of the biggest icons in the history of golf – a record of 82 PGA Tour victories, equaling the ill-fated compatriot Sam Snead, who died in 2002 -, who was world number one for 683 weeks (almost 14 years!) the threat of expulsion from the PGA circuit, are playing the millionaire eight-race circuit, paid for by the Saudi Arabian Investment Fund and of which another icon of the sport, the Australian Greg Norman, is the face and CEO.
«They turned their backs on who and what made them players», summarized Woods to journalists, who, unlike many of the ‘top 100’ worldwide, was faithful to the PGA Tour and remained on this circuit, even with monetary prizes lower than the big bucks. prizes of the new league, with eight competitions, started in June, with the seven individual competitions (for 12 teams of four players, 48 in total) to be at stake, each of them – and two have already been played -, 20 million dollars (€19.19 M) and the last one, by teams, in October, ‘cake’ worth 50 million dollars (€49.79 M)!
“It will be sad to see some of the best, who preferred the other circuit, not be on this ‘major’. But having turned their backs on those who allowed them to have the status they now have of these things, they enabled themselves”, said Woods, always the most respected and sought-after voice wherever he goes, whatever he does, as a global icon of sport, even if it is currently… 974th in the ranking.
The controversy gained more currency because, due to the ‘bleeding’ of professionals stampeding from the PGA circuits (North America, but also the European and even Australasia), the organization of the ‘major’ had, exceptionally and for the first time, authorized that even ‘dissidents’ who have already tried the alternative circuit play the tournament. A non-extensive invitation to Australian Greg Norman, however.
“The 150th edition of the Open is a milestone in the history of golf and we want attention to remain on the competition, its history and legacy. Unfortunately, that would not be the case, we believe, if Greg were to be invited» was the justification put forward by the race organizers for the omission of ‘The Great White Shark’ (‘The Great White Shark’, Norman’s nickname) from the list of invitations to celebrate so round number. “A pity,” said Norman.
“Greg did some things that I don’t think are the most interesting for this sport of ours, and we are reaching a historic moment in the sport. I think the organizers made the right decision”, said Tiger Woods about the ‘no invitation’ to a great legend of golf and sport, Norman.
The LIV Golf Series, according to Greg Norman, “is here to stay”, and despite the suspension and fines imposed by the PGA on players who competed in some of the first two of eight events of the new millionaire ‘SuperLiga’, the organizers’ signal of St. Andrews was understood around the world as the first step towards smoking the ‘peace pipe’ and finding a solution that does not penalize players.
But the 255 million dollars (€253.93 M) that Norman has already announced that he has, financed by Saudi Arabia, for «at least a decade of new tour», and the prizes being more than triple those paid on the PGA Tour, have caused a split in the volume, with the absences of those competing on the new circuit also being particularly noticeable in the PGA events.
Already suspended from the PGA Tour are some major and established winners of the sport, such as Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and even Dustin Johnson: all of them will return to play in St. Andrews, in a gesture of goodwill. The PGA-LIV ‘arm-wrestling’ cannot last forever, and players are prevented from doing what they love most and is their job: playing.
“I don’t understand them. Players are doing this for the money. So what is the incentive to train? What’s the incentive to hit some balls? Just go there and earn a ‘lot of dough’ in just over half a dozen races with 54 holes [três voltas aos campos, e não quatro, 72 buracos, como na PGA]. They are lulled by siren songs, but they are different atmospheres», was the criticism of Tiger Woods to his fellow workers in the LIV Series.
“I don’t see this split and this new tour bringing anything positive to any of these players. Especially if the LIV organization doesn’t allow them to earn points for the ranking and the ‘major’ tournaments themselves have changed their entry criteria because of them [jogadores]», underlined Woods, quoted in the BBC.
With one caveat: cover places for neophytes. And when Woods speaks, the golf world often listens. As much as the injury that kept him out of competition and the scandals of adultery and divorce cost him popularity and a huge chunk of his personal fortune as well as fans.
“It would be sad to see some of the kids starting today, as I predict, never get the chance to play in a big tournament, as the seats are all taken by ‘consecrated’. And there are others who have jumped straight from amateurism to organizing [LIV] without knowing what it’s like to play a ‘tour’ an entire season, 11 months, 20 events, including the ‘majors’ of the PGA».
«Besides that we are yet to see how this problem of not earning points in the selection process and entry into the ‘majors’ will be reflected. It’s a mystery for the organizers to decode. I didn’t want to miss this Open, not least because we are in the biggest golf boom ever, after Covid-19″, recalled Tiger Woods, optimistic about the future of golf.
Even though it might be his last Open in St. Andrews, even because the next one is only scheduled for… 2027. In five years, when Eldrick Tont (Tiger) Woods is, then 51 years old. «My last? Who knows? I don’t know if I’ll have the physical conditions to compete at that time. I don’t even remember how many times I competed in the event, but this time I really wanted to be here», was the declaration of love for the sport that he left to journalists.
«For me, it all started here in 1995, and, for now, it could end here in 2022. [a carreira], It’s not over. It will be great if I can still play one more, but there are no guarantees said», said who has drawn millions to golf, most likely like no other star in the sport, with his magnetism and media coverage.