Tiger Woods railed against the breakaway LIV Golf Series on Tuesday as he spoke ahead of The Open in St Andrews.
The 46-year-old questioned why young players would join the Saudi-backed circuit when it remains unclear if they will be able to participate in Majors in the future.
Woods, who has fought to be fit to play in the 150th Open this week as he continues his recovery from severe leg injuries suffered in a car crash last year, was scathing in his assessment of the new series and wondered what incentive those involved even had to practise given the guaranteed sums of money involved.
“I disagree with it. I think that what they’ve done is they’ve turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position,” Woods said when asked about his fellow professionals who have been tempted to join the controversial tour.
“And 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 Major championships. That is a possibility. We don’t know that for sure yet.”
Open organisers followed the US Open in allowing rebel players to compete at St Andrews, despite the PGA Tour and DP World Tour moving to ban them.
That means four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and former Open champion Phil Mickelson can tee off in St Andrews on Thursday.
According to The Guardian, the LIV tour is planning to use a board meeting at the home of golf on Wednesday to demand formal recognition in the world rankings.
Representatives of the four Majors, plus the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, would be among those who must decide on any application from the Saudi-backed series.
Failure to earn ranking points could compromise the chances for those players affiliated to the LIV series of playing in Majors in the future.
“It’s up to all the Major championship bodies to make that determination. But that is a possibility, that some players will never, ever get a chance to play in a Major championship, never get a chance to experience this right here, walk down the fairways at Augusta National,” said Woods, a three-time Open winner, including at St Andrews in 2000 and 2005. “That, to me, I just don’t understand it.”
Woods, who has won 15 Majors and is level with Sam Snead on a record 82 PGA Tour wins, wondered aloud whether the sums of money offered to players by the LIV Series could blunt their motivation.
“What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practise?” he said. “What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt?”
The series, spearheaded by Australian golf great Greg Norman and bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, offers record prize money of $25-million per 54-hole event with shotgun starts and no cut.
Total prize money at this week’s Open is $14m.
“You’re just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes,” said Woods. “I just don’t see how that move is positive in the long term for a lot of these players, especially if the LIV organisation doesn’t get world-ranking points and the Major championships change their criteria for entering the events.”
Norman, who won the Open twice, was not invited by organisers to attend past champion events in St Andrews this week.
“I know Greg tried to do this [organise a breakaway tour] back in the early 90s. It didn’t work then, and he’s trying to make it work now. I still don’t see how that’s in the best interests of the game,” Woods added.
© Agence France-Presse