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Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus attend Open Champions’ Dinner

The great and good of golf proved Tuesday night for the stylish Champions’ Dinner ahead of The Open – minus the notable absences of LIV chief Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson, the lead player of the controversial breakaway tour.

Norman, the chief executive of the LIV Golf series that has caused a huge divide within the sport in recent weeks, was brutally disapproved by the R&A for their celebrations at this week’s 150th Open.

Organizers feared the Aussie’s presence as the face of the Saudi Arabia-backed tour – which spends huge amounts of money to lure top golfers away from both the PGA and DP World Tours – would hijack the event.

A two-time winner of the Claret Jug, Norman was under normal circumstances a clear invitation to Monday’s four-hole Celebration of Champions event and to join Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Rory McIlroy with the legends of the game at the ultra elite Champions’ Dinner of past Open winners on Tuesday.

However, the R&A announced in an unprecedented rejection that his absence was due to the fact that he had not been invited.

Norman hit back, criticizing the decision to let him out as “very petty” and saying it was “silly” to bar him from events in St Andrews.

Top row (left to right): Ian Baker-Finch, John Daly, Francesco Molinari, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Justin Leonard, Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Shane Lowry, Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson, Louis Oosthuizen, David Duval.  Bottom row (left to right): Sandy Lyle, Bob Charles, Padraig Harrington, Lee Trevino, Sir Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Collin Morikawa, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ernie Els, Bill Rogers, Mark O'Meara , Mark Calcavecchia.

Top row (left to right): Ian Baker-Finch, John Daly, Francesco Molinari, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Justin Leonard, Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Shane Lowry, Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson, Louis Oosthuizen, David Duval. Bottom row (left to right): Sandy Lyle, Bob Charles, Padraig Harrington, Lee Trevino, Sir Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Collin Morikawa, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ernie Els, Bill Rogers, Mark O’Meara , Mark Calcavecchia.

Nicklaus (second from left) and Woods (third from left) catch up as they wait for the group photos to be taken in St Andrews

Nicklaus (second from left) and Woods (third from left) catch up as they wait for the group photos to be taken in St Andrews

McIlroy and Cink hug for the glamorous Champions Dinner - the Northern Irishman is this week's favorites

McIlroy and Cink hug for the glamorous Champions Dinner – the Northern Irishman is this week’s favorites

Reigning champion Morikawa sits front and center as he prepares to defend his title on the Old Course

Reigning champion Morikawa sits front and center as he prepares to defend his title on the Old Course

LR: Spieth, Lowry and Clarke share a joke as the former champions catch up for their ultra-exclusive dinner from the golf elite

LR: Spieth, Lowry and Clarke share a joke as the former champions catch up for their ultra-exclusive dinner from the golf elite

Mickelson, meanwhile, is in the field in Scotland this week, but has reportedly told the R&A that he did not want to attend either the Celebration of Champions or the Champions’ Dinner.

According to CBSMickelson said the R&A “called him and said he could be there if he wanted to,” but he “decided it would be best to just sit this one out.”

Both Norman and Mickelson would have had a frosty reception around the dinner table if they had attended anyway.

McIlroy and Woods were both notable critics of LIV Golf and attended as former champions.

On Tuesday night there was a 28-strong guest list, which also included reigning champions Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, Sir Nick Faldo, Tom Watson and Gary Player.

The group of legendary golfers posed for a photo in front of the R&A’s iconic clubhouse which overlooks both the 1st tee and 18th green on the Old Course at St Andrews – widely known as the ‘home of golf’.

Front and center of the picture was Woods, who vehemently reiterated his opposition to the Saudi-backed breakout spearheaded by Norman on Tuesday and questioned whether his younger recruits will ever be able to compete in major championships like the Open.

LIV chief Greg Norman - a former Open winner - was not invited to St Andrews this week due to his role in the breakout tour

LIV chief Greg Norman – a former Open winner – was not invited to St Andrews this week due to his role in the breakout tour

Phil Mickelson reportedly told organizers he didn't want to attend the dinner despite being in Scotland this week

Phil Mickelson reportedly told organizers he didn’t want to attend the dinner despite being in Scotland this week

The 15-time big winner said he supported the R&A’s decision not to invite Norman and wondered why the likes of Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka had turned their backs on the PGA Tour to join the series. 48 men, 54 from LIV Golf. -hole events.

“I don’t agree with those who went to LIV, I think they turned their backs on what allowed them to get to this position,” he began.

“Some players have never had a chance to play on any of the tours.

“They went straight from the amateur ranks to that organization and never really had a chance to feel what it’s like to play on a schedule or play in big events.

“Some of these players may not even get the chance to play in major championships. That’s a possibility. They will never get the chance to experience this here. Walk the fairways at Augusta National.

‘I do not understand. What are these players doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice? What’s the incentive to go out and earn it in the mud?

“You just get a lot of money up front and play a few events and play 54 holes.

‘They play shrill music. I understand 54 holes for the Senior Tour. The boys are older and a little more confused. When you’re young, that includes 72-hole tests. We used to have 36-hole majors playoffs.

‘I just don’t see how this is positive in the long run. It would be sad to see some of these young children never get the chance to walk this sacred ground and play in these majors.”

Woods, here stood on the iconic Swilkan Bridge on the 18th hole in St Andrews, brutally shot the LIV wave defectors

Woods, here stood on the iconic Swilkan Bridge on the 18th hole in St Andrews, brutally shot the LIV wave defectors

Speaking specifically about Norman, Woods added: “I know what the PGA Tour is all about, what it’s given us: the ability to pursue our careers, the trophies we play for and earn what we get and the history that was part of this game.

“I know in the early 1990s Greg was trying to do what he’s doing now. It didn’t work then and he’s trying to make it work now. I still don’t see how that’s in the best interest of the game.

“All the governing bodies, the PGA Tour, the European Tour, all the majors – we all see it differently from Greg.”

Those in attendance at this week’s Champions’ Dinner will no doubt have their minds set on the challenge as they try to add a new Claret Jug to their collection.

Woods will face US Open champions Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa in the first two rounds, while another star-studded trio will feature defending champions Morikawa, McIlroy and Xander Schauffele – who have won the Travelers Championship, the JP McManus Pro-Am and the Scottish won. Open in his last three outs.

US PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas will play alongside Ireland’s 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry and Norway’s Viktor Hovland. World No. 1 and Masters Champion Scottie Scheffler was paired with Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and England’s Tyrrell Hatton.

Mickelson pulled one of the earliest first round start times – 7:30 a.m. local time – and will play with Australia’s Lucas Herbert and Kurt Kitayama.

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