Phil Mickelson continues to call out PGA Tour, says tour is 'trending downwards’
Phil Mickelson speaks to the media during a press conference after the pro-am prior to the LIV Golf Invitational - Jeddah.
Chris Trotman/LIV Golf
The last time Phil Mickelson was in Saudi Arabia he accused the PGA Tour of "obnoxious greed." In the eight months since Mickelson made those comments his relationship with the tour has, uh, not improved. His latest remarks are not exactly a peace offering.
Mickelson, who in those eight months has been suspended by the tour, left for the upstart Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit and filed an antitrust lawsuit against the tour before removing his name from the suit, is back in Jeddah for LIV Golf’s regular-season finale at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. Speaking to assembled media on Thursday, Mickelson was asked about all that has changed since his appearance at the Saudi International in February, and the six-time major winner asserted he has picked the right side on the schism created by the breakaway circuit.
“I think that, as I said earlier, for a long, long time, my 30 years on the PGA Tour, pretty much all the best players played on the PGA Tour, at least for the last 20 years,” Mickelson said. “That will never be the case again. I think going forward you have to pick a side. You have to pick what side do you think is going to be successful. And I firmly believe that I'm on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf.”
On the surface this is not necessarily newsworthy; of course Mickelson is going to defend his decision, one that reportedly handed him a nine-figured guaranteed deal. But Mickelson did not stop there, claiming the PGA Tour is moving in the wrong direction.
“We play against a lot of the best players in the world on LIV and there are a lot of the best players in the world on the PGA Tour. And until some of the … well until both sides sit down and have a conversation and work something out, both sides are going to continue to change and evolve,” Mickelson said. “And I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards and I love the side that I'm on. And I love how I feel. I love how I'm reinvigorated and excited to play golf and compete. I love the experience. I love the way they treat us.
“I love the way they involve us and listen to us in decisions. I mean it's so inclusive, it's so fluid that things, LIV Golf is leading. Whether it's shorts, whether it's other aspects of professional golf that are going to change and evolve, those positions will be led by LIV.”
It’s worth pointing out that the PGA Tour announced a massive overhaul of its own structure spurred in part by suggestions brought by some of the sport’s top players. Beginning in 2023, the tour is moving to a new schedule, one that will feature 12 elevated events, in addition to the majors and the Players Championship, and a commitment from the game’s “top players” to compete in at least 20 tournaments. A “top player” will now be defined by the tour as an individual who finishes in the top 20 in the Player Impact Program, meaning make the list grants invites into the tour's biggest events featuring the biggest purses.
Additionally, the tour has jumped the PIP payouts from $40 million to $100 million and created an Earnings Assurance Program, which will guarantee all exempt PGA Tour players who play at least 15 events will be paid a minimum of $500,000 for the season regardless of whether they earn that much in tournament prize money.
Later in the press conference, Mickelson said he’s not surprised LIV has been able to have, in his opinion, a successional inaugural campaign thanks to the support of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. However, he did acknowledge the pushback received in both the United States and United Kingdom.
“I believe in the passion … look, the game of golf is very lucky to have the PIF invest in the game. The sport of the game of golf is being influxed with billions of dollars now. And the ability to go global and make golf a truly global sport is really beneficial for the game,” Mickelson said. “Now the United States and the U.K. are not favorable to this. But everywhere outside of the world LIV Golf is loved. … It opens up opportunities to move professional golf throughout the world in other countries and grow the game internationally.”
Following this week’s event in Saudi Arabia, LIV Golf will hold a $50 million team championship at Trump Doral at the end of the month to cap off its 2022 season.