Street. ANDREWS, Scotland – After Tiger Woods returned to his sport’s oldest stadium on Tuesday, he first tried his hand at brevity. Appropriately, he quickly made history. Then, finally, when the North Sea winds blew and blew out, he let out a stinging disgust.
The topic, as is so often the case around golf tournaments these days, was LIV Golf, the series of rebel calls pouring money from Saudi Arabia and challenging the dizzying challenge. Woods, who is nearing the start of what he said could be his last British Championships at St. Andrews, issued his harshest and most comprehensive condemnation yet: an unconditional, multipart reprimand to fugitives who, he suggested, had been made fabulously richer by shortcuts and ill-considered strategies.
“What are these players doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice?” asked Woods at the old pitch. “What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt? You just get a lot of money up front and play some events and play 54 holes.”
Not quite ready to give up on the jab soon, he added almost immediately, “I can understand that 54 holes is almost delegating when you get to the senior round – guys are a little bit older and noisier – but when you’re at that young age, and some of those kids They really are kids who have gone from amateur golf to that organization, and the 72-hole exams are a part of it.”
Such testing will begin on Thursday, when the opening is scheduled to begin. But Woods won two Opening Awards on the old track, and 17 months after a car crash that nearly killed his right leg, his look this week already has the vibe of the unofficial Valide Show in St. Andrews.
If it turns out in the end—it could be years before the answer is known—Woods will use a portion of his last Old Course major, his favorite in the world, to defend a system that has gone decades without much threat.
LIV Golf has already used its treasure, sourced largely from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, to lure some of the world’s most prominent players, including Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed. Although the Department of Justice is considering whether the PGA Tour’s efforts to maintain discipline in its ranks have violated antitrust laws, the consequences for LIV golf players and their supporters are growing nonetheless.
The Tour has penalized players, and the qualification criteria for major tournaments could eventually change, and Greg Norman, the main champ-turned-CEO of LIV, is currently disqualified from the Open Championship, a contest he won twice.
Although Woods did not criticize the current players by name, even when he complained that they “turned their backs on what allowed them to get into that position”, he clearly said he did not object to the denials that Norman prevented him from participating until Tuesday’s dinner for former Open champions, He protested that it was “trivial”.
“Greg has done some things that I don’t think are in the best interest of our game, and maybe we’ll go back to the most historic and traditional place in our sport,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I think it’s the right thing.”
Another Open Open winner, Rory McIlroy, also said Tuesday that he agreed with the decision of R&A, the tournament’s organizer.
“I can see a day when he would definitely welcome him back,” McIlroy said. “But for now, with everything going, we want to focus on the 150th Open and this is a celebration of a great golf tournament and a great match overall, and I think it was the right decision for that.”
For Woods, another race ran in St. Andrews became a prime target after the accident which left him hoping for some time to only walk. It will be his third World Open since the crash. He finished 47th in the Masters in April, and withdrew from the PGA Championship in May after the third round. He skipped the US Open in June to prepare for the trip to Scotland, where the terrain is more forgiving and where he’s built a proud record since 1995, when he first played at the World Open.
“The biggest challenge is that I don’t play golf in the tournament until the tournament is ready for the big teams,” he said on Tuesday. “I don’t hit tournaments to see what works and what doesn’t.”
He played several dozen holes in St. Andrews on the past few days, including nine Tuesdays, when the winds were strong enough that Woods turned a 6-iron from 120 yards on the No. 10.
He has long celebrated the quirks and dangers of St. Andrews, where tides and winds do much to determine the difficulty of any given moment. Now, he knows there may be a few chances after he kicks off Thursday at 9:59 a.m. ET.
“I will never play with a full schedule again,” he said. “My body wouldn’t let me do that. I don’t know how many Opens I have left here in St. Andrews, but I wanted this. It started here for me in ’95, and if it ends here in ’22, it will. If it doesn’t, It wouldn’t be. If I had the chance to play another one, that would be great, but there’s no guarantee.”
By simply navigating the Swilcan Bridge, St. Andrews’ mentor as Jack Nicklaus bid farewell to professional play is already more difficult.
Woods, whose office includes a photo from a 1995 visit to the bridge during his first training tour of St. Andrews. “I don’t have the agility that I am used to. I am about to eat it today.”