Tiger Woods has vigorously defended the legacy of the PGA Tour ahead of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf professional series kicking off next month.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday before the start of this week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Woods made it clear that he supports the tour that his predecessors Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer built into what it is today.
“I just think that what Jack and Arnold did in starting the tour and breaking away from the PGA of America and creating our tour in ’68 or ’69, somewhere in there, I just think there’s a legacy to that,” Woods said.
“I’ve played here for two years over the decades, and I think there’s a legacy to that. I still think the tour has a lot to offer, a lot of opportunities.”
Woods’ support for the PGA Tour, which was founded in 1968, came when he was asked for his views on comments made by fellow golfer Phil Mickelson, who criticized the tour while also expressing support for the upstart LIV Golf Invitational Series, which is backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
Responding to Mickelson’s comments, Woods said: “You know, he has his opinion about where he sees golf going. You know, I have my view on how he sees golf, and I’ve supported the Tour and my organization has run events on the Tour for a number of years.”
“I understand the different points of view, but I believe in legacies,” Woods added. “I believe in the big tournaments. I believe in the big events and comparisons with historical figures of the past. There is a lot of money here. The tour is growing.”
In February, comments surfaced from a 2021 interview with biographer Alan Chipnock, in which Mickelson was quoted as saying he disparages Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and asserts that the kingdom murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while still expressing interest in joining the coalition. Saudi-funded LIV Golf Club. venture because it may provide leverage to “reshape how the PGA Tour operates”.
Mickelson said his comments were off the record — a claim the reporter who interviewed him denied — and said they were shared out of context and without his consent. Mickelson subsequently lost several sponsorships due to the controversy and announced plans to take some time away from golf.
As the defending champion, Mickelson initially signed up to compete in the PGA Championship last month but pulled out of the tournament on Friday.
Woods said on Tuesday that despite their differences of opinion, he missed having Mickelson on the field this week.
“It’s always disappointing when the defending champions aren’t 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 dismissed, and he took some personal time, and we all understand that. But I think some of his views on how the Tour should be run, should be managed, there was a lot of disagreement there.
“But as we all know, as a professional, we miss him here. I mean, he’s a big draw in golf. He’s just taking his time and we wish him all the best when he comes back. Obviously we’ll have different opinions, how he sees the tour, and we’ll go from there.”
Woods is set to begin his quest for his 16th major title when he kicks off at 9:11 a.m. ET on Thursday.