Golf: Tiger Woods laments 'turbulent' time for the game

Tiger Woods at a press conference prior to The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on February 14 in California. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES – Tiger Woods said he did not know how he felt about facing golfers who had left the PGA Tour for rival LIV Golf for the first time at April’s Masters, but acknowledged that the splintering of the sport had taken a toll.

“I don’t know what that reaction is going to be,” said the 47-year-old, who will tee it up at the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational this week.

“I know that some of our friendships have certainly taken a different path but we’ll see when all that transpires. It’s still a couple of months away.”

Players from the warring circuits will break bread at the Masters’ traditional pre-tournament Champions’ dinner and Woods said the focus should be on reigning tournament champion Scottie Scheffler despite the obvious tensions.

“We need to make sure Scottie is honoured correctly while also realising the nature of what has transpired,” he said.

“The people who have left, where our situations are legally, emotionally – there’s a lot there.”

Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are among the big names who have left the PGA Tour for the lucrative, Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

While banned from PGA Tour events, LIV Golf players have been invited to compete at the Masters.

LIV Golf’s inaugural season in 2022 and the subsequent controversies and lawsuits had been “very turbulent” for the sport, Woods added in his interview at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

“We never would have expected the game of golf to be in this situation but it is. That’s the reality,” the American said.

“They’re a competitive organisation trying to create the best product they possibly can and we’re also trying to create the best product, which we think is the future of golf and how it should be played.

“How do we do that? We’re still working on it.”

Woods also reflected on LeBron James’ National Basketball Association (NBA) career scoring record, marvelling at the Los Angeles Lakers great’s continued dominance even as he tries to prolong his own career.

“That record, we thought it would never be surpassed,” he said, of James’ move past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the top of the NBA’s all-time scoring list – a spot the latter had held for 39 years.

“What LeBron is doing, also the amount of minutes he’s playing, no one’s ever done that before at that age (38). To be able to play all five positions, that’s never been done before at this level for this long.”

Asked about a possible equivalent in the golf world, Woods said perhaps the record 82 PGA Tour titles he shares with the late Sam Snead, who won his last title in 1965.

With 15 Major championships on his resume and after a litany of injuries and surgeries that have left their marks on him, Woods is not giving up on adding to that tally – even if he knows his time is growing shorter.

“I had some knee surgeries early on in my career but nothing like what I experienced with my back. When my back went, man, those were tough surgeries and tough rehabs. That’s when I started realising the mortality of this game and just sports in general. But if I’m playing, I play to win,” Woods said.

“There will come a point in time when my body will not allow me to do that any more, and it’s probably sooner rather than later, but wrapping my head around that transition and being the ambassador role and just trying to be out here with the guys, no, that’s not in my DNA.” REUTERS, AFP

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