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Tiger Woods firmly planted his flag in favor of the PGA Tour on Tuesday while discussing the recent controversy surrounding Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson, 51, hasn’t played in a tournament for months after criticizing the PGA Tour and backing a Saudi-funded golf league set to rival the Tour.
Just two days before the start of the PGA Championship, Woods was asked about the absence of Mickelson, who recently pulled out of the tournament despite being the defending champion and the PGA welcoming his participation.
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“It’s always disappointing when the defending champion isn’t around,” Woods told reporters in a press conference about 30 minutes before the tournament. “Phil said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the Tour and committed to the Tour legacy rejected. And he took some personal time, and we all understand that.”
“But I think some of his views on how the Tour could be run, should be run, caused a lot of disagreement there,” Woods added. “As a professional, we miss him here. I mean, he’s a big draw for the game of golf. He just takes his time, and we all wish him the best when he comes back. Obviously, we’re going to have some differences of opinion, how he sees the Tour, and we’ll go from there.”
Woods admitted he hasn’t spoken with Mickelson since the golfer retired from the sport in February. Woods’ comments detailing his support for the PGA Tour were in stark contrast to Mickelson, who accused the Tour of “abhorrent greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
“He has his opinion on where he sees the game of golf. I have my point of view on how I see the game of golf, and I’ve supported the Tour, and my foundation has organized events on the Tour for several years.” Woods said.
PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: THE ABSENCE OF PHIL MICKELSON LEAVING ORGANIZERS, GOLFERS “DISAPPOINTED”
“I just think what Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnold [Palmer] did by starting the Tour and splitting off from the PGA of America and creating our Tour in 1968 or 1969, somewhere in there. I just think there’s a legacy to that,” Woods added. “I’ve been playing here for…over two decades, and I think there’s a legacy to that. I still think the Tour has so much to offer, so many opportunities.”
Woods said he understands different points of view, but he believes in “legacies” and “great championships.”
“I believe in big events, in comparisons to historical figures from the past. There’s a lot of money here, the Tour is growing,” Woods said. “But it’s like any other sport, like tennis, you have to go out there and win it. You have to go out there and play for it. We have an opportunity to step up and do it. It’s just not guaranteed up front.”
In an excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s unauthorized biography, due out this month, Mickelson revealed how he worked behind the scenes to promote the rival league funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund and run by Greg Norman. Mickelson described the Saudis as “scary,” but noted he could look past their history of human rights abuses if it meant a chance to change the PGA Tour.
This week, the PGA announced that it would not grant releases to players wishing to participate in the first LIV Golf Invitational next month.
Woods did not appear to mention the LIV Golf Invitational Series by name during the press conference.
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The PGA Championship begins Thursday. Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will be grouped for the first two rounds.