Tiger Woods says Greg Norman must step down as commissioner of the LIV Golf Series if the upstart circuit is to exist in harmony with the PGA and DP World tours.
The 15-time Major champion, speaking on Tuesday before his Hero World Challenge at the Albany in the Bahamas, echoed comments earlier this month by Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy, both also saying that litigation between the parties must also be dropped if progress is to be made.
“There is an opportunity out there if both organisations put a stay on their litigation,” Woods said. “That’s the problem.
“There is no willingness to negotiate if you have litigation against you. I think Greg has to go first of all.
“It has to start with leadership on their side, understanding that what is happening right now is not the best future for the whole game of golf.
“You need to have the two bodies come together and if one side has so much animosity, trying to destroy our tour, then how do you work with that?”
Norman has been the very confrontational face of the breakaway circuit funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
He said in September he had “no interest” in negotiating with the established tours in a bid to heal the bitter split sparked by LIV Golf’s luring of some of the game’s biggest names with multi-million dollar purses for their 54-hole, no-cut tournaments.
The new circuit has been accused of “sportswashing” Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, and the US tours responded to its challenge by suspending any players who competed in LIV events.
The European Tour’s attempt to sanction players making the jump to LIV is also facing a legal challenge, while it remains to be seen if the organisers of the four Major championships – the Masters, US and British Opens and the PGA Championship – will open their doors to the rebels – who include past Major winners such as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.
“There is a window of opportunity for us from both [US and LIV] tours to figure this out, but I think that window’s closing just because the Majors are coming up now and they’re going to have their own criteria, but again that goes back to LIV and their lawsuit,” Woods said.
“They’re suing us first and we counter-sued them. They have to back off the table, then we’ll back off the table and then we have a place to talk, but their leadership has to change as well.
“If that doesn’t then I think it’s going to continue going down the path that it’s going right now.”
Woods said he’d never have imagined at this time last year what was in store for the global game.
“This whole year is a year we didn’t expect to happen, for the animosity, the angst and then the players leaving and then the way they showed their disregard or disrespect to the tour that helped them get to that point,” he said.
Woods praised world No 1 McIlroy’s leadership in the crisis, noting that it was up to established tour loyalists to remind young golfers of the legacy of those circuits.
“I don’t know what their endgame is,” he said of LIV. “It might be just being an official member of the golf ecosystem and being recognised with world ranking points.
“I think that’s what their intended goal is. You know, they’ve spent probably close to $2-billion this year. Who’s to say they can’t spend $4- or $5-billion next year?
“It’s an endless pit of money. But that doesn’t necessarily create legacies either. You want to compare yourself to [Ben] Hogan, you want to compare yourself to [Sam] Snead, you want to compare yourself to [Jack] Nicklaus, you can’t do that over there, but you can on this tour.”
© Agence France-Presse