Tiger Woods Meets PGA Tour Players Over LIV Golf

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WILMINGTON, Del. – To underscore the seriousness of the mounting threat posed by the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series, Tiger Woods—despite his absence from the BMW Championship field—traveled to Delaware on Tuesday to meet top players and provide support for the PGA Tour.

Patrick Cantlay, the reigning champion of the tournament, confirmed the meeting at his scheduled press conference Tuesday afternoon, on a day when much of the intrigue involved golf’s main figure and main debate.

“I heard Tiger is the new Commissioner” [of the PGA Tour]Turn right?” joked Cantlay, number 4 in the world and seventh in the FedEx Cup standings. “That’s what everyone says. I’m going to the meeting [Tuesday night]. I’m going to hear what it’s about.”

Woods, a 15-time major champion, has been outspoken about his loyalty to the PGA Tour and has turned down an offer of between $700 million and $800 million from LIV, Greg Norman, the organization’s CEO, told Fox News in an interview this month. Ahead of the British Open in July, Woods said the players in the new breakaway circuit had “turned their backs on what allowed them to reach this position”.

Cantlay, meanwhile, arrived in Delaware, having never played at Wilmington Country Club, but had been buoyed by his win a year ago; that riveting triumph, which required six playoff holes, came at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland.

Last year’s runner-up won’t be on the field during this week’s tournament, however, and Bryson DeChambeau’s notable absence has nothing to do with his performance on the golf course. DeChambeau left the PGA Tour earlier this summer to join the Saudi-backed LIV series for a reported nine-figure deal, one of the most notable points in the controversial saga that has dominated this golf season.

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A look at the BMW standings last year, when Cantlay and DeChambeau set a tournament record for par of 27 under through 72 holes, only reinforces the seriousness of the feud.

For example, previous great champions Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia finished in a tie for sixth place last year but won’t be playing this week, having lost their entry to the PGA Tour. Also absent is Abraham Ancer, who finished ninth at BMW in 2021.

All three defected to LIV, the series linked to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which US intelligence officials say approved the operation that led to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

And while virtually all of the top 70 players in the PGA Tour’s playoff points race will be in Delaware this week, several of the sport’s best-known stars won’t.

“One of the great things about the PGA Tour is the depth of the field,” said Jon Rahm, the fifth player in the world to finish ninth in the BMW Championship last year. “So there is always a hungry future star willing to put in the work and make herself known. Lack of talent on the PGA Tour and the golf world is no problem.

“Again, you may have lost some names, but you’re getting some great golfers. …I don’t think we’re essentially losing that much because, like I said, you just get to know some great players out there that you’ve never heard of.”

Rahm, 27, has also been candid about his allegiance to the PGA Tour, with the 2021 US Open winner saying the potential to make hundreds of millions from LIV wouldn’t be life-changing. His demeanor was in stark contrast to that of another youthful great champion of the game, Cameron Smith.

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The 28-year-old Australian, who won the British Open at St Andrews last month, was reluctant when asked about his commitment to the PGA Tour after a report in the Telegraph that Smith plans to move to LIV for a contract worth $100 million.

The tour announced Monday that Smith had withdrawn from the BMW due to “hip discomfort,” according to an accompanying statement from his agent. Smith’s withdrawal came two days after he suffered a two-stroke penalty at the St. Jude Championship, the first of three FedEx Cup playoffs.

Smith, second in the world, is third in the FedEx Cup standings en route to the second round of the 68-player playoffs.

“There’s no doubt that the fields have weakened here by missing those guys,” Cantlay said, in a departure from other PGA Tour greats. “That’s just one of the unfortunate circumstances that come up when you have a bit of a broken sport as far as the best players, where they play, especially compared to all the consistency we’ve had in the past where pretty much all of the top players plays all these events.”

The BMW field typically includes 70 players, after the top 125 in the standings qualify for the opening event. But besides Smith withdrawing, Tommy Fleetwood is not in the play-offs for personal reasons, the Englishman posted on Twitter.

There are no alternates in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which will culminate in the top 30 in the standings competing next week at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. The winner of the FedEx Cup will receive $18 million, an increase of $3 million from what Cantlay pocketed as champion last year.

“It’s still an incredibly fantastic field,” said reigning US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, who was eleventh in the world and twelfth in the FedEx Cup standings after tied for fifth in the St. Jude. “The field this week is [68] of the best players in the world. Yeah, I think there’s only three that aren’t here. It’s not a huge loss in my opinion.”

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