Worried Woods shreds Norman over Saudi mess

Tiger Woods has outlined the full extent of his opposition to the Saudi-backed LIV Invitational Golf series, and reaffirmed his commitment to the PGA Tour, in a press conference ahead of Thursday’s 150th Open Championship.

“I disagree with it [the players’ decision to join LIV Golf],” the 15-time-major winner said. “I think that what they’ve done is they’ve turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.”

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The controversial series has created divisions in the game. Several players, including major champions Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, have joined the LIV Golf series, accepting suspension from the PGA Tour as a consequence.

Fronted by former world No.1 Greg Norman, the LIV Golf series is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) — a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

A US intelligence report named Bin Salman as responsible for approving the operation that led to the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Bin Salman has denied involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.

The PIF has pledged to award $370 million in total prize money, but the source of the money for the lucrative series has led to criticism aimed at organizers and players about choosing to play for money from the country, given its human rights record.

Human rights groups have criticized the country for conducting mass executions and for its treatment of gay people.

‘It’s the right thing’

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which hosts the Open this year, declined to invite Norman, a two-time Open champion, to Monday’s Celebration of Champions event or Tuesday’s Champions’ Dinner.

In an interview with Australian Golf Digest, Norman called the decision “very petty.”

“The R&A obviously have their opinions and their rulings and their decision,” Woods said. “Greg has done some things that I don’t think is in the best interest of our game, and we’re coming back to probably the most historic and traditional place in our sport. I believe it’s the right thing.”

Golfers participating in the LIV Golf series have said that it is an opportunity to break the monopoly of, and reform, the PGA Tour.

The PGA Tour and the DP World Tour — formerly the European Tour — have long been where players have folded their trade across the golfing calendar, outside of the four majors.

While the US and European based Tours have banned and fined anyone joining the LIV Series, the majors have so far allowed golfers who have qualified to continue to compete in golf’s most prestigious events.

Woods said: “Who knows what’s going to happen in the near future with world-ranking points, the criteria for entering major championships?”

Woods, who will be playing the third event in his comeback from a career-threatening car crash that nearly resulted in the American losing his right leg, added: “It would be sad to see some of these young kids never get a chance to experience what we’ve got a chance to experience and walk these hallowed grounds and play in these championships.”

Rory McIlroy, the 2014 Open Champion and another critic of the LIV Golf series, observed that Woods’ career and legacy has been built on a platform offered by the PGA Tour.

“Those traditions and the history of the game are very important to him,” McIlroy said in his pre-tournament press conference. “And I think he doesn’t want to see that all go away. I think that’s a big part of the reason why his position is what it is.”

CNN has reached out to LIV Golf for comment but has not immediately received a reply.

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