Masters dinner must ‘honour’ Scheffler despite ‘turbulent’ times in golf, says returning Tiger Woods

Masters dinner must ‘honour’ Scheffler despite ‘turbulent’ times in golf, says returning Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods practises on the range before the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in California's Pacific Palisades on 14 February 2023. (Photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

Tiger Woods will make a long-awaited return to competitive golf in California this weekend where he acknowledged that the split between the PGA and LIV Tour players will continue to make things difficult.

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 Woods, 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.”

Rory Mcllory of Northern Ireland reacts after missing a putt on the seventh green during the final round of the 2022 PGA Championship at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Erik S Lesser)

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 players have been invited to compete at the Masters.

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

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

“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 called world No 1 Rory McIlroy the PGA Tour’s “ambassador” and said he had been extraordinary at navigating the new, at times hostile, terrain.

McIlroy beat LIV Golf’s Patrick Reed by one stroke at last month’s Dubai Desert Classic after the American, who is taking legal action on different fronts, threw a tee in the direction of the Northern Irishman, whom he had subpoenaed over Christmas. 

“It’s been tough on him and he’s been exceptional,” Woods said.

“I’ve been on all of these conference calls, these side-meetings, and for him to go out and play and win, it’s been incredible.”

Woods back to win

Woods was pretty direct when discussing his goal for the Genesis Invitational.

“If I’m playing, I’m playing to win,” he said on Tuesday during a news conference at the Riviera Country Club.

“I know some players have played as ambassadors to the game and are trying to grow the game. I can’t wrap my mind around that. I’m playing to beat the other players and get a ‘W’.”

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Woods (47) is returning to competitive golf for the first time since failing to make the cut at The Open Championship in July. He played in just three tournaments last season as he continued his recovery from a serious leg injury sustained in a single-car accident the day after the 2021 Genesis Invitational was completed.

The 15-time major champion is host of the annual event through his charity foundation.

He will play his first two rounds with two of his close friends on tour, McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

Woods said in November 2021 that his days as a full-time participant on the PGA Tour were over and that he’d “pick and choose” his tournaments going forward. He repeated that phrase on Tuesday, noting that his participation in this week’s tournament is not a signal of a full-time return.

“Would I like to play more? Yes,” Woods said. “Would (his health) allow me to? I don’t know. I have to be realistic about that.”

Woods, however, said his knee and leg aren’t so much the issue this time around.

Tiger Woods during the first round of the 150th Open Golf Championships in St Andrews, Scotland, on 14 July 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Robert Perry)

“As far as the recovery, it’s more my ankle, whether I can recover from day to day,” Woods said. “The leg is better than it was last year, but it’s my ankle. So, being able to have it recover from day to day and meanwhile still stress it but have the recovery and also have the strength development at the same time, it’s been an intricate little balance that we’ve had to dance.”

He also played in last season’s Masters Tournament, finishing in 47th place at 13 over par, and was in the field at the PGA Championship in May but withdrew after three rounds.

Woods did partner with McIlroy in a made-for-television match play event in December, losing to the team of Thomas and Jordan Spieth. He also played with his son, Charlie, that same month at the PNC Championship.

Woods intended to play in the Hero World Challenge last December in the Bahamas but withdrew because of plantar fasciitis. His foundation is the host of that event as well. Reuters/DM


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