Tiger Woods on state of Tour-Saudi negotiations: “We all want the same thing”

PINEHURST, N.C. — In a wide-ranging if brief media session on Tuesday morning, Tiger Woods touched on a range of topics, and Woods’ prevailing emotion was optimism … whether or not it’s grounded in reality.

Woods is attempting two distinct, extraordinarily difficult feats: returning to major-winning ways after catastrophic injury at age 48, and trying to hold together a professional game that appears in danger of fracturing completely in two.

Tiger Woods is the GOAT, but these two herculean challenges might be beyond even his peerless abilities.

First the general, then the specific. Woods and several other PGA Tour representatives met last week with officials of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the financial backer of LIV and the driving force behind the division that has torn the golf world into two distinct halves. During last week’s Memorial, Rory McIlroy described those tasks as “productive,” and Woods agreed with that assessment.

“Is there light at the end of the tunnel? I think we’re closer to that point than we were pre-meeting,” Woods said, noting that both sides “felt very positive” at how the session went.

“Both sides were looking at different ways to get to the end game,” Woods added. “I think that both sides shared a deep passion for how we need to get there. And yes, there are going to be differences of opinion, but we all want the same thing.”

Naturally, Woods did not go into specifics about what exactly that “same thing” is, though he did allow that there could be “a lot of different endings” — presumably including everything from a complete merger of business operations to the continuation of two distinct tours.

So … progress? At least Woods seemed to hold out the possibility that an agreement is within reach, which is a long way from how others involved in the negotiations would describe the process. As always … we wait.

Woods last played a U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 2005, when he finished in solo second behind winner Michael Campbell. He was injured in 2014 when Martin Kaymer destroyed the field, so this year marks his first look at the sand-and-wiregrass version of Pinehurst. He noted that the course’s infamous turtleback greens are going to pose a severe challenge.

“The last few days playing practice rounds — I'm guilty as well as the rest of the guys I've played with — we've putted off a lot of greens,” he said. “It depends how severe the USGA wants to make this and how close they want to get us up to those sides.”

As for his own health, Woods noted that the key now is simply staying healthy enough to play all four rounds. “I feel like I have the strength to be able to do it. It's just a matter of doing it,” he said. “This golf course is going to test every single aspect of your game, especially mentally, and just the mental discipline that it takes to play this particular golf course, it's going to take a lot.”

Pinehurst doesn’t have the hills of Augusta National or Valhalla, and the Carolina June weather will be much warmer, which will come as a welcome change to Woods. “Hot and humid is what we deal with every single day at home in Florida, so that's nothing new. It's just making sure that I keep hydrated and the mental tax that the heat will bring,” he said. “I would rather play in hot, humid conditions any day than anything cold.”

So far in majors this year, Woods limped to a 60 at the Masters and missed the cut at Valhalla for the PGA Championship. He’s scheduled to tee off with Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick at 7:29 a.m. on Thursday.

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