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Phil Mickelson plays Saudi pro-am with backers of a potential new golf tour, sounds impressed by Premier Golf League pitch

January 29, 2020

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson said at last week's Farmers Insurance Open that the idea of the Premier Golf League, an upstart rival circuit to the PGA Tour, was “intriguing.” However, Mickelson couched his remarks, noting he didn't know much outside the general concept.

On Wednesday, Mickelson sounded more enlightened after reportedly playing in the Saudi International pro-am with the backers of the PGL.

“I had the chance to spend time with and play with the gentlemen in charge of trying to start a new premier league,” Mickelson told a group of reporters at Royal Greens Golf Club in King Abdullah Economic City, according to the Scotsman. “It was fascinating to talk with them and ask some questions and see what their plans are—where they started, how they started, why—and just got their background, which was very interesting.

“I haven’t had the chance to put it all together and think about what I want to say about it publicly, but I do think it was an informative day for me to have the chance to spend time with them.”

The Scotsman identified three of the individuals: Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation, Colin Neville of the Raine Group, and Andrew Gardiner, a director at Barclays Capital. The Raine Group has been announced as one of the PGL partners, and Neville has orchestrated past sports transactions like the Ultimate Fighting Championship's $4 billion sale and Manchester City's deal with a group of Chinese investors.

According to an email from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to players, the PGL is backed by "Saudi interests."

It's not surprising the new enterprise is keen on Mickelson, one of the more popular figures in golf. Conversely, the five-time major winner is falling in the World Rankings (No. 86 entering this week) and would be 51 or 52 by the time the PGL has floated that it would debut (current target date of 2022).

Mickelson said he needed more time to weigh the proposal, saying he wants to know how it will affect fans and the game, but came away impressed by the group's proposal.

“I asked a lot of questions today and there are some very interesting ideas and it seems very well put together," Mickelson said.

In his email, Monahan warned players of the ramifications of joining the breakaway tour. "If the Team Golf Concept or another iteration of this structure becomes a reality in 2022 or at any time before or after, our members will have to decide whether they want to continue to be a member of the PGA Tour or play on a new series,” Monahan said.