‘They’re turning their backs on what got them there…’ Tiger Woods hits out at golfers joining dissident Saudi-backed league

Tiger Woods was pleased, on Tuesday 12 July, to participate from Thursday in British Open golf at the historic course of Saint Andrews. He also took the opportunity to sharply criticize the players who joined the dissident circuit LIV, the lucrative league run by Saudi Arabia and former champion Greg Norman, to the detriment of “sacred paths“.

At the end of June, the US Open announced that it would allow the participation of players who joined LIV, such as Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson or even Bryson DeChambeau.

What do you think of the players who were tempted to join the dissident circuit LIV?

Tigerwood: They have turned their backs on what got them where they are. Some players don’t even have experience on the circuit (PGA). They went straight from the amateur circuit to this organization without ever having the opportunity to feel what it’s like to play on the court or in the majors. And who knows what will happen to the world ranking points, what are the criteria for playing Majors? Some of these players may never be able to play a major, never have the chance to play at Saint Andrews, to walk the fairways at Augusta. It is incomprehensible to me.

They are paid very dearly in advance to play some 54 hole tournaments [en trois jours au lieu de 72 trous en quatre tours sur le circuit classique]. I understand that the senior circuit is 54 holes, they are older and less physically strong. But when you’re young, and some of these players are kids coming from amateur golf, playing 72 holes is part of the difficulty of the game. I remind you that the Majors had 36-hole playoffs [pour départager les joueurs à égalité après 72 trous] !

So I don’t see how this move (to LIV) can prove positive in the long run for many of these players, especially if LIV doesn’t get world ranking points and the majors don’t change their criteria. It would be sad to see some of these young players never set foot on these hallowed courts.

After your February 2021 car accident that almost cost you your right leg, did you think you might one day return to Saint Andrews to play The Open?

Most of the time during my rehab I just hoped I could walk again. Walk normally and have a normal life, even play a little golf with my son or friends.

But finally I was able to play a little competitively this year. And when I realized that I could play at a high level, even if it’s never going to be a question of playing a full season again, my goal was to come back here to Saint Andrews to play this tournament, which is the most historic in our sport.

How are you physically?

My body can definitely get better, but realistically not much better. He was abused a lot and at 46 you don’t recover as well as you did at 26. But I’m lucky that in our sport you can continue to play from 45. 50 years old on links-type courses [parcours sablonneux, ouverts au vent, peu voire pas arborés] like in St. Andrews. It just takes a lot of skill to play well on these courses. And with fairways as fast and firm as they are, it allows older players to roll the ball and have a chance.

But in terms of preparation, when I arrived on Saturday, I didn’t hit a single ball. I just made approaches, putts and walked (on the course). There was no tension. I was just trying to find sensations. As I am staying at the Golf Hotel, I went out at 9pm, went to one of the greens and putted. So on Sunday I played 18 holes. On Monday I played 9 and today (Tuesday), 9. And that will be all, on Wednesday I rest.

Comments collected at a press conference.

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