TULSA, OKLA (AP) – Tiger Woods is all about big business and legacy, a point he drove home on Tuesday in a sharp rebuke to Phil Mickelson and his support for a Saudi-funded golf project that left Lefty not defending his PGA title.
Even as Woods resumes an impressive comeback from a car accident 15 months ago that nearly amputated his right leg, the PGA Championship cannot escape Mickelson’s absence and speculation over who might sign up for the new Greg Norman-backed golf series.
Woods said he hasn’t tried to reach out to Mickelson since he stopped golfing three months ago, mainly due to differing opinions about how golf should be managed.
I understand the different points of view, but I believe in legacies. I believe in the big leagues. “I believe in big events and comparisons with historical figures from the past,” Woods said.
“There is a lot of money here,” he said. “The Tour is growing. But it’s like any other sport – it’s like tennis – you have to go there and win it. You have to go there and play for it. We have a chance to go ahead and do it. It’s just not guaranteed up front.”
This was a reference to some Public Investment Fund money from Saudi Arabia being offered to players to join Norman and LIV Golf Investments. According to various reports from Britain, some of the top players have been offered more than $120 million that Woods made in career PGA Tour earnings.
Mickelson showed his hand in two interviews published in February. He accused the PGA Tour of “hateful greed” while playing in Saudi Arabia, and more incendiary comments followed when Alan Shipnock published an excerpt from his unauthorized autobiography about Mickelson.
Mickelson said the Saudis were “scary moms – (expletives) to get involved in,” then dismissed their human rights atrocities – such as the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi – by saying it was worth gaining leverage to make changes to the PGA Tour.
He also said that he does not care if the Saudi League fails, as long as the tour brings about the changes he wants.
Deciding last Friday that he would not play in Southern Hills, Mickelson missed out on an opportunity to celebrate his historic victory last year at Kiawah Island when, at the age of 50, he became the oldest major champion in golf.
He’s the first PGA champion not to defend since Woods was recovering from knee surgery in 2008 and he passed Oakland Hills.
“It’s always disappointing when the champions are not here,” Woods said. “Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us committed to the Tour and committed to the legacy of the Tour have been dismissive of, and he took some personal time, and we all understand that. But I think some of his views of how the Tour should be run, it should be run, there was a lot of disagreement.” there “.
“He’s just taking his time and we wish him all the best when he comes back.”
Meanwhile, Woods is back and more optimistic than he was a month ago at the Masters. He said those close to him were thrilled to see him walk all 72 holes at Augusta National, the first time he’s walked during competition since February 23, 2021, in Los Angeles that shattered the bones in his right leg and ankle.
All he could think of the next day was a bad week that led to a 78-78 weekend.
“I didn’t see it that way on Monday,” he said. “I was a little nervous I didn’t put it down well, and I felt like I was hitting it well enough and wish I had the stamina.”
He said the Monday after the Masters was a tough day to recover, and then went straight back to work trying to gain strength and stamina.
“It’s better than the last time I played a championship, and that’s a good thing,” Woods said.
He’s the defending PGA champion at Southern Hills, having won two shots in 2007 to finish 13th out of 15 majors now. He barely recognized the track after a restoration project that restored some meandering creeks and re-edged the edges of the leveling surfaces so they could direct shots away from the green.
The biggest challenge is the players he’s trying to beat, who make up the strongest field in the disciplines. Woods is 46, and Mickelson showed a year ago that age is just a number. However, Mickelson was playing a full schedule the entire time. Woods, with his injuries, appears to be confined to the Big Four this year at the most.
One help is nature walking. Augusta National is among the toughest in golf. Southern Hills features steep drops off the first and ten tees and a tough climb at the end of all nine. Otherwise, it’s a relatively nice walk.
“I thought the first mountain I climbed was Everest. This is the steepest course you’ll ever play, and this was the first one you would climb and climb,” Woods said. “It will get flatter and better.”
He still struggles on certain days. He said it’s never as easy as it might seem.
“But I feel better off,” he said. “I have more days that are better and more positive.”
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