Woods labels Mickelson’s views “polarising”

Fatiha Betscher

Tiger Woods in practice at Southern Hills (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Fatiha Betscher

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Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have always been at opposite ends of the golfing poles ever since the golfing duo locked horns back in the late 1990s.

It means they’ve never been the best of friends, they’ve never socialised together while at a professional level, they do enough to tolerate each other’s company when inside the ropes or in team competition.

Michelson spoke last year of his shock and disappointment, like all golf fans, in learning of Woods’ near fatal car accident earlier last year while Woods answered with the professional courtesy you would expect when asked his views on Mickelson choosing not to defend this week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa.

Woods said: “It’s always disappointing when the defending champion is not here. 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, have been a lot of disagreement there. But as we all know, 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 different opinions, how he sees the Tour, and we’ll go from there.”

Woods said he has not tried to reach out to Mickelson since his self-imposed hiatus from golf three months ago, mainly because of their difference of opinion on how golf should be run.

And it was this response by Woods wherein the pair, and as mentioned above, are on completely different pages.

“I understand different viewpoints, but I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past,” Woods said.

“There’s plenty of money out here. The tour is growing. But it’s just like any other sport — it’s like tennis — you have to go out there and earn it. You’ve got to go out there and play for it. We have the opportunity to go ahead and do it. It’s just not guaranteed up front.”

Despite plenty of phone calls from the PGA of America, Mickelson decided last Friday he would not play at Southern Hills, missing out on a chance to be celebrated for his historic win last year at Kiawah Island when at age 50 he became golf’s oldest major champion.

The PGA naturally removed Mickelson’s page from the now 316-page 2022 PGA Championship ‘Media Guide’.

He is the first PGA champion not to defend since Woods was recovering from knee surgery in 2008 and skipped Oakland Hills, while Ben Hogan in 1949 was the only other PGA winner not to defend, as he recovered from his own near fatal car crash in February of 1949.

Woods offered an interesting but sensible insight into why he believes Mickelson’s self-exile, noheading well into its third month, is creating this polarisation we are now witnessing in professional golf.

Social media has ramped it up very quickly, and I think we were talking about this, if this would have happened 30 years ago, 20 years ago, it wouldn’t have happened as fast,” said Woods.

“But then social media has changed the landscape and how fast things can ramp up, whether it’s real news or fake news or whatever it is, opinions get out there instantly. It can sway very quickly one way or the other. What we are seeing right now in society, it’s very bipolar.

There’s really no middle ground, you stand one way or the other. It’s very polarising. And the viewpoints that Phil has made with the Tour and what the Tour has meant to all of us has been polarising, as well.”

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