Woods, who is not in the field this week and has played sparingly since his car accident in February 2021, was sincere about his allegiance to the PGA Tour as upstart LIV Golf poached several high-profile golfers, including major winners Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.
Preventing more defections became part of the agenda for Woods, who talked about the importance of heritage before the start of the British Open last month at the Old Course at St. Justin Thomas, who is a close friend of Woods, provided some insight Wednesday morning about the significance of the 15-time major champion making the trip to Delaware to meet with some of the tour’s top players at a Wilmington hotel.
“If someone like him is passionate about it, no offense to all of us, but that’s really all that matters,” Thomas said. “If he’s not behind something, then one, it’s probably not a good idea in terms of improving the game, but two, it’s just not going to work. He must be behind something.
“He’s been a great kind of leadership role in a lot of ways in the game for a lot of us.”
Thomas did not reveal details of what was discussed at the meeting, which took place after practice rounds on Tuesday, but he said the tenor of the conversation focused on what would be best for PGA Tour players as LIV offers exorbitant amounts of money for lure away stars .
Rory McIlroy, four-time major winner and another vocal supporter of the PGA Tour in its contentious battle with LIV, indicated that the meeting offered a respite from the conflict of the sport.
“The one thing that came out of it, which I think was the goal, is all the major players on this tour are in agreement and in agreement about where we should be going forward, and that’s been fantastic,” McIlroy said.
Among the more famous players in line to join LIV are Cameron Smith, according to the Telegraph. The world No. 2 player and British Open winner withdrew from the BMW Championship on Monday, two days after he two stroke penalty at the St. Jude Championshipthe first of three events in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Also absent from the BMW are three of the top nine finishers from last year’s tournament at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md., where Patrick Cantlay survived DeChambeau on the sixth playoff hole.
As the conflict between tours fades, players said Wednesday that Woods, 46, continues to play an invaluable role on their tour, regardless of whether he competes.
“I mean he’s the hero we all looked up to,” said McIlroy, ranked third in the world and ninth in the FedEx Cup. “His voice carries more than anyone else’s in the game of golf. His role is to navigate us to a place where we all think we should be.
“He came because it was very important to him,” said Thomas, seventh in the world and 10th in the FedEx Cup. “Probably, it just wasn’t something he thought was appropriate to do on Zoom or just call. It shows how passionate he is about golf and wanting to improve it and pave the way for the next generation of young players to come out down the road. “
The meeting – which also included Rickie Fowler, who accompanied Woods to Delaware – unfolded a week after a federal judge. dominated against LIV golfers Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford in their bid for a temporary restraining order to allow them to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The trio accumulated enough points to qualify for the playoffs but lost their PGA Tour privileges when they joined LIV, the Saudi-backed series with ties to Mohammed bin Salman. The country’s crown prince, according to US intelligence officials, authorized the plan that led to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Eleven LIV players, including DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson, filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour this month challenging their suspensions. The suit alleges the PGA Tour not only threatened golfers who sought to play in LIV tournaments, but also “threatened sponsors, vendors and agents to force players to forego opportunities to play in LIV Golf events.”
The most recent manifestation of the feud between the circuits surfaced on Tuesday when Patrick Reed, an LIV defector, filed a defamation suit against TV commentator Brandel Chambleeclaiming comments from the Golf Channel analyst hurt him financially and his family emotionally.
The two have been at odds since at least January 2020, when a lawyer representing the then-PGA Tour player sent a cease-and-desist letter to Chamblee demanding that he stop repeating an allegation that Reed cheated in the 2019 Hero World Challenge, unofficially. event in the Bahamas hosted by Woods. It was yet another ugly title for a sport that has had many this season.
“It’s definitely broken right now,” said Xander Schauffele, the No. 6 player in the world and in the FedEx Cup, when asked about a resolution to the saga between the PGA Tour and LIV. “Yeah, we’re just in the middle of it. In a nice, peaceful way it would be a nice outcome.”