Phil Mickelson, American golf hero and people’s champion left many fans flabbergasted by his comments towards the PGA Tour in February 2022. He accused he tour of “obnoxious greed” and acting like a “dictatorship”, before going on to declare that he was using the Saudi Golf League’s inception as fuel to give the power back to the golfers.
In this strategy, not only did he insult those at the PGA Tour, but also the fans and fellow golfers, who criticised himself and the Saudi proposition. Mickelson’s comments were exposed further as he admitted that the Saudis were ‘scary mother****ers to get involved with’, before re-affirming his point about how he can ‘reshape how the PGA Tour operates.’
This is now part of the past. Mickelson has apologised and ratified his comments by saying that a long career in the spotlight has added stress and pressure to his life. He was criticised by Rory McIlroy as being ‘naive, selfish, egotistical and ignorant’ meanwhile potential candidates to join him on the new tour were making sure that their loyalties to their current billpayer were shown publicly.
A break from the game would do him good and he can return to the game in a better place than when he left it. Well this week, Lefty returns from said break.
Mickelson has requested a release from the PGA Tour in June, to play in the first LIV Golf Invitational Series at the Centurion Club in London. Phil has also registered to feature in the upcoming US PGA Championship, the tournament he is currently the champion of, as well as the US Open, which is the week following the inaugural Saudi-backed invitational.
For the uninitiated, the LIV Golf Invitational is a new golf series backed by former world number one Greg Norman, is an eight-event series of tournaments played in London, Portland, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Bangkok and Jeddah, with the final venue awaiting approval, although expected to be at Trump National (Bedminster).
Jon Rahm gives his thoughts on Phil Mickelson asking the PGA Tour for permission to play in the Saudi-backed golf league opener.
48 of the top players in the world will be drafted each week into 12 teams of four, playing in three rounds with no cut and play getting underway via shotgun starts. So far the central unknown property is the golfers who will be taking part. LIV have confirmed to Sports Illustrated that 15 of Official World Golf Ranking’s top 100 players have applied to the PGA Tour to request a release to play in a non-PGA Tour event. So far, only world number 1,053 Robert Garrigus has confirmed his request of absence from the tour, as well as Mickelson’s agent confirming his request also. The Daily Mail have declared that the series has appointed two former world number one’s, both with the tagline as ‘Ryder Cup heroes.’
Now if you’re wondering why the world’s best will move over to this new series of events, it’s exactly what you think it is. The total purse of each event on the tour is $25m, with $20m committed to individual prizes before $5m being shared out for the top three teams. There will be an award for the ‘Individual Champion’, with $30m being shared out between the top three best players, as well as the final event of the season, a Team Championship, that has a total of $50m at stake. The finances are provided by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, made famous recently thanks to their 80% stake in Newcastle United, and it blows every competition that the PGA Tour can offer out of the water with its prize pool.
Returning to Phil Mickelson’s request, his agent Steve Loy has made the request to play in the tournament public, as well as ending his statement with a small caveat.
"Phil currently has no concrete plans on when and where he will play. Any actions taken are in no way a reflection of a final decision made, but rather to keep all options open."
Mickelson continues to sit on the fence for both sides as the Saudi Golf League appears to be kickstarting it’s campaign to oust the already-functional golf ecosystem. Whether cowardly or cautiously, we still await the answer from the Tour. With lifetime bans being banded around by current PGA commissioner Jay Monahan, it’s easy to see why Mickelson would hand his request in with a transparent grimace.
According to Greg Norman, PGA Tour players are legally “independent contractors’ and Monahan would have no right to prohibit their appearance in the series. Given this, maybe we will see more players than expected to appear in London in June than first thought. Money talks more than ever in the world’s most expensive sport.