Tiger Woods says players who have moved to the LIV Golf International Series “have turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position” as he questioned the breakaway circuit’s competitive edge.
The 15-time major champion, attempting this week to capture a third Open Championship at St Andrews, called out the controversial new tour that has attracted to its ranks a number of the game’s principal players.
Woods, 46, was rumoured to have been offered around $600 million to join LIV Golf. Those who have signed up have been given hugely lucrative contracts, while the inaugural series’ eight individual events, all 54 holes, offer purses of $25m.
The PGA Tour has already banned indefinitely 20 players who have opted to make the switch – those include Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau – while the DP World Tour has also issued its own set of suspensions and fines.
Speaking to the media at St Andrews on Tuesday, two days out from the 150th Open, Woods said: “The players who have chosen to go to LIV … I disagree with it. What they've done is they've turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.
“What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practise? 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 [on the driving range] and have all these atmospheres that are different.
“I can understand 54 holes is almost like a mandate when you get to the Senior Tour. The guys there are little bit older and a little more banged up”.
The LIV Golf series, launched last month and only two events old, does not qualify at present to offer Official World Golf Ranking points, which will affect its members’ ability to play in majors.
Woods said what most concerns him about LIV Golf is that it is attracting some of the game’s lead amateurs, such as prodigious Spaniard Eugenio Chacarra.
“They've gone right from the amateur ranks into that organisation 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,” Woods said. “Who knows what's going to happen in the near future with world-ranking points, the criteria for entering major championships.
“Some of these players may not ever get a chance to play in majors. It is a possibility that some players will never, ever get a chance to play in a major and walk down the fairways at Augusta National [at the Masters].
"It would be sad to see some of these young kids never get a chance to walk these hallowed grounds and play in these championships.
“I just don't see how that move is positive in the long term for a lot of these players. I just don't understand it.”
This week, Woods makes his third competitive appearance since a car crash last year that threatened not only his career, but his life.
The American, a former long-time world No 1, made a shock return at the Masters in April and went on to finish 47th, while he was forced to withdraw after the third round of the US PGA Championship in May as he continues to deal with significant injuries sustained to his right leg in the February 2021 accident.
Woods has been at St Andrews since late Saturday and, after nine holes' practice on Tuesday, said he would take off Wednesday. He begins his quest for a fourth Claret Jug – he triumphed at St Andrews in 2000 and 2005 – on Thursday afternoon, alongside recent US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa.
“I’m not going to play a full schedule ever again,” Woods said. “My body just won’t allow me to do that. I don’t know how many Open Championships I have left here at St Andrews, but I wanted this one.
"It started here for me in ’95 [his debut], and if it ends here in ’22, it does. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. If I get the chance to play one more, it would be great, but there’s no guarantee.”