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US golfer Tiger Woods speaks during a press conference at the British Open golf championship in St Andrews, Scotland, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. The Open Championship returns to the home of golf on July 14-17, 2022, to celebrate the 150th edition of the sport's oldest championship, which dates to 1860 and was first played at St. Andrews in 1873. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Over the course of a very distinguished professional golf career, Tiger Woods has won over $120 million in prize money, easily the top figure in career PGA Tour earnings.

But that is also why Tiger's Tuesday rant at the 150th British Open about such former major champions as Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka receiving guaranteed deals of more than $100 million each from LIV Golf should be ignored.

If they can get $100 million guaranteed, more power to them. Money's money. No one begrudges basketball and baseball players for outrageous salaries. Why should we look at golfers any differently? Why should we criticize anyone for making money who does it legally as long as they're not taking advantage of anybody else?

This isn't to say that the purist in me doesn't understand the feelings behind Tiger's Tuesday words: "I think that what they've done is they've turned their back on what has allowed them to get in that position."

Maybe they have and maybe they haven't, but from Tiger's vantage point — as the king of the PGA money mountain — it's easy to talk about loyalty and tradition and the like. Tiger will always be welcome wherever he wants to play. Tiger remains the biggest draw in golf and probably will until the day he officially retires.

And that's fine. He's richly earned that right. But why shouldn't DeChambeau and Johnson and Koepka and Patrick Reed also have the right to follow the money as they see fit? Moreover, why would major championships, which seems to be the arguing point these days, not allow them to continue to compete?

Tiger isn't going to be around forever. If Dustin Johnson is one of the best players in the sport — which he has proven enough times to trail only Woods and Phil Mickelson's career earnings with a third-place total of $74,427,559 — wouldn't the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open want him?

True, the PGA Championship might be a different matter, but it's always been considered a distant fourth among the majors. If that tournament chooses to ban the LIV guys, they'll probably survive just fine.

Then again, Woods spent much of his press opportunity Tuesday seeming to threaten the LIV players with never playing any of the majors again. This hopefully wouldn't apply to the Masters, which makes past winners such as Mickelson, Johnson and Reed exempt from ever having to qualify again.

But U.S. Open winners are exempt for 10 years only. What will that mean to DeChambeau, Johnson and Koepka if, as Woods suggested, "Who knows what's going to happen in the near future with world-ranking points, the criteria for entering major championships. The governing body is going to have to figure that out."

Then, with words even more threatening to those yet to reach a major, much less win one: "Some of these players may not ever get a chance to play in major championships. That is a possibility. We don't know that for sure yet. It's up to all the major championship bodies to make that determination. But that is a possibility, that some players will never, ever get a chance to play in a major championship, never get a chance to experience this right here (St. Andrews), walk down the fairways at Augusta National. That, to meI just don't understand it."

Everyone makes choices. Most folks have to live with those choices, even if they later regret them. If Woods is right that the majors will ignore the performances of those on the LIV Tour, then they'll either have to find another way to qualify or accept that they chose money over majors.

Will they regret that? Who knows? To be blunt, who cares? They made a choice they felt was best for them and their families at that time. If they have regrets down the road, they'll at least have millions of dollars to soften their second thoughts.

What's more troubling is what the Open has chosen to do to two-time winner Greg Norman on the occasion of its 150th anniversary. The Royal and Ancient decided not to invite Norman — the CEO and commissioner of the LIV tour — to its four-hole exhibition of Monday at the Old Course or its Champions Dinner on Tuesday. They said they felt he might be a distraction, and he might well have been.

But he also deserved to be there, and as Sports Illustrated pointed out this week: "It's this type of petty attitude, where golf organizations fight to control everything, that Norman in his own way is battling with LIV. You don't have to be a LIV lover to understand that golf should be bigger than this."

It's been more than 50 years since pro golf had this kind of issue. But back in 1969, the tour professionals broke away from PGA of America and formed the PGA Tour. Again, according to the SI article: "(Those players) were called rebels and their names were Gardner Dickinson, Bob Goalby, Billy Casper and Jack Nicklaus. The reason for the move was simple: it was all about money and power."

The LIV tour is certainly about money. Lots of money. And, ultimately, as it did in 1969, professional golf, in one way or another, will weather this. Whether the R & A and Greg Norman can ever patch up their differences may be another matter.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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