News & Tours

Phil Mickelson isn't going to tell U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson what to do, but—surprise—he does have some opinions

August 09, 2023

Andrew Redington

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — In Phil Mickelson’s words, he’s “thrown himself into the fire” plenty over the past two years while LIV Golf emerged as a breakaway to the PGA Tour. With the Ryder Cup just over a month away, Lefty doesn’t want to cop more heat for telling U.S. captain Zach Johnson who to select for his six captain’s picks.

“I don't want to get involved, and I don't want to step on Zach's toes and tell him what he should or shouldn't do; he's got to be the one making the decisions on what he thinks is best for the U.S. team,” Mickelson said Wednesday at LIV Golf Bedminster after hosting a clinic for adaptive golfers. “I've kind of detached from that a little bit. I've accepted the fact that I've had 12 or 13 years of great Ryder Cup experiences, 12 as a player, one as a vice captain. I've enjoyed my time. But I've detached and kind of let it go and let others take others as players as captains, and kind of let myself be a fan watching now.”

Although Mickelson, who made a record 12 appearances for the U.S., does have some … recommendations. And they all happen to be current LIV golfers.

“I think Talor Gooch is one of the best performers of the year, and Brooks [Koepka] is one of the toughest competitors, and then you always want to throw DJ [Dustin Johnson] or Patrick Reed in there because of their consistency. It's also understandable if as a captain you decide to go with a team that brings about a certain chemistry, but if you're looking just straight for the best players, there's four or five guys here that warrant that.”

Mickelson was hesitant to offer advice to Johnson because he has come under considerable scrutiny over the past two years for using LIV Golf as leverage to try and reshape the PGA Tour’s business model. Now that the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which finances LIV, entered into a framework agreement on June 6, the 53-year-old Mickelson is relieved to see what he believes is a better ecosystem for professional golf.

“I've kind of thrown myself in the fire plenty of times,” Mickelson said. “It is what it is. I'm happy to do it because I believe in the long [term benefits]. I knew the first two years of disruption were going to be difficult on everyone. It'll start to settle in, and I think in the long run golf is going to be better in shape because we're going to have a global element, younger demographic fans, and a team element. I think a partnership [framework agreement] is best for everyone. And I hope everyone realizes that sooner than later.”

Mickelson also stuck by a July 29 tweet in which he suggested LIV players would not want a return to the PGA Tour if the framework agreement opened that avenue. Mickelson said it wasn’t likely he would play PGA Tour events he’s cherished in the past, like the Pebble Beach Pro-Am that he won five times, or Torrey Pines in his hometown of San Diego, where he won three times.

“What [event] would I drop then is the question? I love playing the majors, and I may even add a senior major to it, I'm not sure. I don't want to play in that many events. You never say never, but I just don't see a scenario where that's the case, nor do I have the desire to, but that's today who knows what the future brings.”