“Greg has got to go.”
Tiger Woods set the golf world aflame at the press conference for his annual Hero World Challenge.
This wasn’t done in passing. This wasn’t a flippant comment. Tiger doesn’t “riff” at the microphone. This was a very intentional assault, likely months in the planning.
While Greg Norman and his Saudi backers may have been a little surprised at the direct comments, I assure you, Jay Monahan and the PGA Tour were not.
Over the last year, LIV Golf has gone from rumor (is it real?), to chaos (Mickelson and his comments), to legitimacy (Dustin Johnson leaving the PGA), to success (what else do you call an entire season of events?), to this moment.
If the PGA Tour didn’t think LIV Golf was a serious threat to their survival, this comment by Tiger would have never seen the light of day.
Instead, Tiger said this at his signature event, surrounded by the cream of PGA Tour players, next to his Mentee Rory McIlroy, and in front of every golf media member in the world.
This was what we call a tactical nuke.
Two weeks ago, McIlroy said the same thing, but it came off as wish-casting more than a call-to-arms. Think of it as a trial balloon. Rory sent it up, some powerful people nodded along, and Tiger was given the green light to move to DEFCON 1.
Tiger could not have been clearer
"“There is no willingness to negotiate if you have litigation against you. I think Greg has to go first of all.”"
Boom. Gauntlet thrown down, Rubicon crossed – pick your favorite metaphor – this just went from Cold War to real shots fired.
Now the fun begins. Greg Norman’s raison d’etre is to change professional golf and destroy the PGA Tour. He convinced the Saudis he could do it with an unlimited budget. Goodness knows he’s caused quite a commotion.
Now he’s faced with the Faustian choice of achieving his dream only if he falls on his own sword. Greg Norman has been playing Checkers, yelling “King Me!” every time he dumped another $100 Million into LIV Golf players and events.
Tiger just informed him that they are actually playing Chess.
Where LIV Golf played on the greed of players, Tiger and the PGA Tour are now courting them with emotion. Now that all these LIV players have their money, there is only one thing they want – back in the PGA club and all the benefits it provides.
Do you think DJ, Cam, Brooks, Patrick Reed, and Bryson don’t want to try to add to their Major titles? Sure, they traded that privilege for grotesque sums of money, but now they have the money. So what do you think they want now?
Like toddlers, they want everything – no rules or repercussions.
Tiger just cracked the door, stuck his nose out, and said, “You might be able to come back but you have to kill your golden goose first.” Then slammed the door.
You have to wonder if Greg Norman’s cell phone is blowing up right now with messages from LIV Golf players – his guys, guys he just gave hundreds of millions of dollars to – saying, “Greg, you did a great job, but maybe it’s time to step aside.”
Oh, the drama!
If Greg tells Tiger and the PGA to get bent, he has to then go back to all the LIV players and say, “I know we were close to getting you guys back at PGA Tour events and maybe even into the Majors, but I just ripped that offer to shreds and flushed it down the toilet. See you in Singapore next spring!”
I don’t know if all the guys are going to like that.
To sweeten the pot, Tiger, Rory, and Jon Rahm are openly attacking the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) system, insisting that additional adjustments have to be made.
OWGR points are a big piece of the equation for qualification in Majors. To date, OWGR has been the real poison pill all the LIV golfers had to swallow.
Now Tiger is hinting at the golf equivalent of the Heimlich Maneuver.
Should this latest gambit not force Greg Norman – whose ego is measured in metric tonnes – off his spot, there is one last nuke to drop.
The PGA Tour could offer every LIV golfer full amnesty. But it’s only available once and for a very short time. You can keep your money, but you have only this one chance to come back. It’s the ultimate Black Friday deal.
Expect Norman to fire off a response soon. His mouth moves faster than his brain.
Tiger’s comments are an olive branch, be it a sharp one covered with fire ants. It’s going to be painful for LIV Golf to grab it. If they don’t expect the PGA to go full nuclear winter on LIV Golf and Greg Norman.
At this point, the options are running out for both sides.