Tiger Woods is the most famous golfer in history. He earned his reputation as one of the game's best from an early age and started dominating the PGA Tour almost has soon as he joined. His 82 PGA Tour wins are tied for first all-time, and even though he's suffered through injuries and off-course turmoil, he still brings plenty of popularity.
So it's no wonder LIV, the golf league backed by Saudi Arabia and competing with the PGA, offered Woods a reported $600 million to $1 BILLION to join its league. Amazingly, Tiger turned them down. Can you imagine rejecting $600 million to $1 billion? At a time in your life when you're running on fumes and almost out to pasture?
Tiger apparently does not want to play in the competing league, and – perhaps unreasonably – he doesn't think anyone else should, either.
The day before the 150th Open, Tiger explained his rationale:
"The players who have chosen to go to LIV…I disagree with it. What they've done is they've turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position."
"What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice? What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt? You're just getting paid a lot of money up front and playing a few events and playing 54 holes. They're playing blaring music and have all these atmospheres that are different."
While other critics of LIV have cited human rights issues in Saudi Arabia and accused the league of "sportswashing," Woods is critical of the work ethic side of things. And he thinks that could hurt legacies down the line.
The PGA Tour has already declared indefinite bans for the 20 players who have gone to play with LIV. That group includes Phil Mickelson, who was given $200 million, and Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau, who all received more than $100 million.
If the PGA Tour continues to impose bans, Woods is worried younger players won't get the opportunity to play in majors with long, storied histories.
"It is a possibility that some players will never get a chance to play in a major and walk down the fairways at Augusta National. It would be sad to see some of these young kids never get a chance to walk these hallowed grounds and play in these championships. I just don't see how that move is positive in the long term for a lot of these players. I just don't understand it."
But Woods is sitting at a different table than a lot of these other players. As of this writing, Tiger Woods' career earnings are $1.7 billion. Adjusted for inflation, that's easily north of $2 billion. He would be a billionaire if he hadn't gotten divorced, paying his ex-wife Elin Nordegren $100 to $200 million worth of assets, cash, and real estate.
Not every golfer can afford the luxury of turning down ungodly amounts of money. Even just the chance to make six figures at a single tournament is compelling to many players. At LIV events the last-place finisher receives $120,000. And there's no cut — while doing 25% less work…wouldn't most of us take a deal like that if offered the chance?
Yes, the money is backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, a Kingdom which has been behind some significant human rights violations. So there is certainly a moral issue at play. But Woods seems less concerned about that and more about the idea of players having to do less work for more reward.
LIV offers players who haven't had as much success a more lavish lifestyle. Take a look at this video filmed from inside a private jet for players.
That player celebrating in the video is Pat Perez. He's happy because he just made $900,000 playing a 54-hole tournament in Oregon. And here's the craziest part: Perez almost finished in the bottom-fourth of all players. He placed 34th out of 48 golfers, and he still took home nearly $1 million.
If he finished 34th in a PGA event? He'd be lucky to earn one-tenth of that. He'd also have to pay his own way to the tournament, including tickets for his family and transportation for his caddy. And if finishing 34th meant he missed the cut, Perez would have walked away with nothing.
That's a huge financial incentive to join a competing league. And as LIV continues, we may see more players continue to make those decisions.
So ya, maybe Tiger Woods needs to adjust his mindset a little before judging other people!