Tiger Woods is clearly not a fan of Greg Norman’s rebellious golfing adventure when he targeted Phil Mickelson for following the Shark.
Absence hasn’t made Tiger Woods’ heart grow for Phil Mickelson.
Woods tore Mickelson to pieces during the PGA Championship on Wednesday for his support for the breakaway LIV Golf league, citing the American PGA Tour legacy of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, while sowing Mickelson’s comments as “polarizing” and divisive.
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Mickelson, who became golf’s oldest major champion when he won the PGA last year at age 50, withdrew from the defense of his crown last week and has not played since controversial comments about LIV Golf – which is led by Greg Norman with billions of dollars in funding from Saudi Arabia – were made public in February.
“Phil has said some things that I think many of us who are committed to the tour and committed to the legacy of the tour have pushed back,” Woods said.
“He has taken some personal time and we all understand that. But I think some of his views on how the tour could be run should be guided, there was a lot of disagreement about that.”
Mickelson, a six-time major champion, missed the Masters last month for the first time since 1994 and will miss his first PGA since his 1993 debut, the last year the southpaw missed two majors in the same year.
Author Alan Shipnuck made comments from Mickelson calling the Saudi lenders of LIV Golf “scary” with a “terrible track record on human rights,” but said he was willing to work with them to coax funds for the US PGA Tour.
Aussie legend Norman was punched last week after allay concerns about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who said “we’ve all made mistakes” in a desperate attempt to defend his new money-spin golf tour.
The comments sparked international outrage, with former friend and fellow golfer Wayne Grady telling Norman to “hang your head in shame”.
Woods added: “The views Phil has made with the tour and what the tour has meant to all of us have been polarizing.
“We miss him here. He’s a big draw for the game of golf. He’s just taking his time and we all wish him the best when he comes back.
“Obviously we disagree on how he sees the tour, and we’ll move on from there.”
Woods said he has not approached Mickelson and said he was not sure if any issues needed to be resolved.
“He has his opinion on where he sees the game of golf going. I have my opinion,” Woods said.
“I just think what Jack and Arnold did when the tour started… I just think there’s a legacy to that. I still think the tour has so much to offer, so many opportunities.
“I understand different points of view, but I believe in legacies. I believe in big championships. I believe in great events, comparisons with historical figures from the past.”
Even, Woods said, if that means saying no to $AUD35 million events like the LIV Golf opener in London next month.
“There’s a lot of money here,” Woods said. “But it’s just like any other sport. You have to go out there and earn it… It’s just not guaranteed upfront.”
Other players were just disappointed not to have the defending champion in the PGA.
“Phil has to do what Phil has to do,” said Spain’s second-placed US Open champion Jon Rahm. “I would have liked to see him defend. But he has to do what is best for him.
“I can’t say it makes me unhappy, as long as he does what’s best for him.”
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy called it “unlucky” and “sad” Mickelson couldn’t bring himself to play.
“This should be a party,” McIlroy said. “He won a major championship at the age of 50. It was possibly his last big moment in the game of golf. I think he should be here this week to celebrate what a monumental achievement he accomplished last year.”
PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh called Mickelson’s absence “the elephant in the room” and said he spoke with Mickelson before, during and after his decision not to play.
“His camp called and said he wasn’t ready to play. Of course we respect that. We understand,” Waugh said.
“He’s going through a lot.”
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