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Tiger Woods planted his flag firmly in favor of the PGA Tour Tuesday while discussing the recent controversy surrounding Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson, 51, hasn’t played in a tournament in months after he criticized the PGA Tour and backed a Saudi-funded golf league that is 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 withdrew from 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 is not here,” Woods told reporters in a roughly 30-minute press conference ahead of the tournament. “Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the Tour and committed to the legacy of the Tour have pushed back against. And he’s taken some personal time, and we all understand that.”
“But I think that some of his views on how the Tour could be run, should be run, been a lot of disagreement there,” Woods added. “As a professional, we miss him being out here. I mean, 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’re going to have difference of opinions, how he sees the Tour, and we’ll go from there.”
Woods admitted he hasn’t talked with Mickelson since the golfer stepped away from the sport in February. The comments by Woods detailing his support for the PGA Tour were in stark contrast to Mickelson, who accused the Tour of “obnoxious greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
“He has his opinion on where he sees the game of golf going. I have my viewpoint on how I see the game of golf, and I’ve supported the Tour, and my foundation has run events on the Tour for a number of years,’’ Woods said.
PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: PHIL MICKELSON’S ABSENCE LEAVING ORGANIZERS, GOLFERS ‘DISAPPOINTED’
“I just think that what Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnold [Palmer] have done in starting the Tour and breaking away 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 out here for… over a couple of decades, and I think there’s a legacy to it. I still think the Tour has so much to offer, so much opportunity.”
Woods said he understood different viewpoints, but he believes in “legacies” and “major championships.”
“I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past. There’s plenty of money out here, The Tour is growing,” Woods said. “But it’s just like any other sports, like tennis, you have to go out there and earn it. You’ve got to go out there and play for it. We have an opportunity to go ahead and do it. It’s just not guaranteed upfront.”
In an excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s unauthorized biography, which is set for a release this month, Mickelson revealed how he had been working behind the scenes to promote the rival league funded by the Saudi 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 it would not be granting releases for players looking to compete in the first LIV Golf Invitational next month.
Woods didn’t appear to mention the LIV Golf Invitational Series by its name during the press conference.
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The PGA Championship kicks off Thursday. Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth will be grouped together for the opening two rounds.