After speaking about LIV Golf’s first funding trip to Saudi Arabia, Phil Mickelson said Thursday that he was happy to be on the “winning side” and that he saw the PGA Tour going down the drain and refused to do so. The famous interview with author Alan Shipnuk.
Mickelson said a month ago that while the PGA Tour has had the best players in the world for the past 20 or 30 years, that will no longer be the case.
He came out even stronger at the news conference for the LIV Golf Invitational-Jeddah, which starts at the Royal Greens in King Abdullah Economic City on Friday.
“I think you have to pick a side going forward. You have to pick which side you think is going to be successful. And I believe I’m on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape professional golf for years to come,” Mickelson said.
“We play against the best players in the world at LIV and there are a lot of the best players in the world on the PGA Tour. And … until both sides sit down and talk and do something. Both sides will continue to change and improve. And I see LIV Golf moving up.” , I see the PGA Tour moving down and I like the side I’m on.
In an interview with Shipnuk, who published an unauthorized biography of Mickelson in May, the six-time major champion called the Saudis a “terrible mother— to participate in.”
“We know they were killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi has a terrible record on human rights. They kill people there for being gay. Knowing all this, why should I consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change how the PGA Tour works,” Mickelson said.
The interview was published two weeks after Mickelson played at the Royal Greens in the Saudi International.
Mickelson released a statement after the interview, saying the comments were off the record and were shared without context.
He said on Thursday, “I’ve never interviewed Alan Shipnuk. And my experience with LIV Golf has been nothing but incredibly positive and I have the utmost respect for everyone I’ve been involved with.”
Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau were among several major champions who signed deals with Saudi-funded LIV Golf in the $125 million range.
LIV Golf currently has 12 of the top 50 players in the world – British Open champion Cameron Smith is the highest at No. 2, and most of them are outside the top 25 because LIV Golf hasn’t earned world ranking points since. It started in June.
The PGA Tour still has most of its current stars — 19 of the top 20 — and will begin a new program in 2023 that will bring the best players together 15 times a year for a $20 million prize.
These are some of the changes Mickelson wants. The PGA Tour has suspended him and other members signed with LIV Golf, which is the lead plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit scheduled for trial in January 2024.
LIV Golf features a 48-person course with no more than 54 holes worth $25 million in weekly play. Dustin Johnson earned more than $30 million, including an $18 million bonus for winning the single points race.
Mickelson was seen as a key recruit for LIV Golf leader Greg Norman, and it was his comments in February that froze LIV Golf’s first year.
This summer has clearly shown the huge difference in golf, the PGA Tour and European Tour don’t want a body of anyone signed to play with LIV Golf.
The US Open and British Open allowed LIV golfers to compete if they qualified, although both organizations opposed the rival league. The Royal and Ancient Norman asked not to take part in the 150th anniversary celebrations at St Andrews in July.
Mickelson said golf is “very fortunate” that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is investing in the sport. Along with the large sums paid to LIV golfers and bags, it has invested $300 million in the Asian Tour.
“Now the United States and England are not suitable for this,” Mickelson said. “But everywhere else in the world, LIV Golf is loved. And finally they come around and they embrace it.”
Mickelson, 52, signed with LIV Golf in June, a year after becoming the biggest winner at the 2021 PGA Championship for a sixth major championship.
He has only one top 10 in six games with LIV Golf — a tie for eighth place outside of Chicago, seven shots behind Smith.
He says LIV Golf has re-energized him and made him eager to compete.
“I loved the experience. I loved the way they treated us, I loved the way they engaged us and listened to us in decisions,” he said. “I mean it’s that inclusive. … LIV Golf is leading the way. Let’s go [wearing] Shorts, changing and changing professional golf looks, those areas are led by LIV.