Woods calls Mickelson comments 'polarising' as he takes aim at US PGA Championship crown

The 15-time major champion makes only his second competitive appearance this week since last year's car crash

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Tiger Woods has labelled Phil Mickelson’s controversial comments regarding the PGA Tour and the breakaway LIV Golf series as “polarising”, while the 15-time major champion says he “definitely” feels he can win the US PGA Championship this week.

Speaking to media on Tuesday ahead of the season’s second major at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which begins Thursday, Woods said he had not spoken to Mickelson since he announced an indefinite break from the game in February.

Mickelson will not defend his title this week having withdrawn from the event – last year’s victory at Kiawah Island, when aged 50, made him the oldest major champion in history – as the fallout continues from comments made public in February in which he said he was using the new Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf enterprise as leverage against the PGA Tour.

On Tuesday, Woods told reporters: "Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the tour, and committed to the legacy of the tour, have pushed back against. He has taken some personal time and we all understand that.

"But I think some of his views on how the tour could be run, should be run - been a lot of disagreement there. The viewpoints that Phil has made, with the tour and what the tour has meant to all of us, have been polarising.

"We miss him being out here. He's a big draw for the game of golf. He's just taking his time and we all wish him the best when he comes back. Obviously we're going to have difference of opinions - how he sees the tour - and we'll go from there."

Mickelson, a six-time major champion, sat out the Masters last month for the first time in 28 years. While his return to competitive golf has yet to be confirmed, the American is expected to make a comeback at the LIV Golf Invitational Series opener next month at Centurion Golf Club just outside London.

Each of the inaugural series' eight tournaments carry a $25 million purse, making them comfortably the most lucrative events in the game.

Tiger Woods speaks during a press conference ahead of the 2022 PGA Championship. AFP

"I have not reached out to him, I have not spoken to him,” Woods said. “A lot of it has not to do with personal issues, it is viewpoints of how the tour should be run and could be run and what players are playing for and how we are playing for it. I have a completely different stance on that.

"He has his opinion on where he sees the game of golf going. I have my viewpoint. I just think that what Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnold [Palmer] have done in starting the tour... there's a legacy to that. I still think that the tour has so much to offer, so much opportunity.

"I understand different viewpoints, but I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past.

"There is plenty of money out there. The tour is growing - like any other sport, like tennis, you have to go out there and earn it."

A poster of 2021 PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson is displayed at Southern Hills Country Club but he is not in the field to defend his title this week. EPA

Woods, 46, is making his first appearance since the Masters and only his second since a car crash in February last year that almost claimed his life. The former world No 1, who secured the final of his four US PGA Championship victories at Southern Hills, in 2007, nearly lost his leg in the single-car accident in Los Angeles.

"I feel like I can [win] definitely," Woods said. “I have to do my work. I've gotten stronger since [the Masters]. But it's still going to be sore and walking is a challenge. I can hit golf balls, but the challenge is walking."

On his 47th-placed finish at the Masters - his first tour tournament in 17 months - Woods said: "I didn't have the endurance that I wanted. I shouldn't expect [to win] because I didn't earn it. I hadn't done the work.

"As the months pass it's going to get better. I feel like I'm doing better. Taking a step back and looking at the overall big picture of it, [the Masters] was an accomplishment.

"But that other side of me says if I would have done things differently, I could have challenged for that [Green Jacket]."

Updated: May 18, 2022, 5:47 AM
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