Phil Mickelson takes his strongest stance in favor of LIV Golf

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia — The beginning of the end of Phil Mickelson’s PGA Tour career could probably be traced right here at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. That probably played a role.

Eight months later, Mickelson didn’t hesitate at a press conference ahead of the LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah. While he had generally been positive in previous months about the PGA Tour and LIV Golf coexisting at the top of the professional game, he said Thursday: “I see LIV Golf trending up and I see the PGA Tour trending down.”

A life member of the PGA Tour, which has 45 victories and is part of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Mickelson has clearly chosen his path.

Phil Mickelson said Thursday that players will have to choose a side between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

It’s entirely possible that the last regular event he’ll play on the PGA Tour was his hometown Farmers Insurance Open in Torrey Pines, where in late January he missed the cut.

As he had done each of the previous two years, he flew on a chartered jet to Jeddah to take part in the Saudi International, a tournament organized by Golf Saudi and where the storylines were all about the drama surrounding the new potential rival called LIV Golf.

It would obviously be difficult to imagine what happened next, with Mickelson noting the “odious greed” of the PGA Tour that week during a Golf Digest interview; a book excerpt was published a few weeks later in which Mickelson went even further, admitting that using the Saudi-backed league as leverage was worth it if it meant changes to the PGA Tour.

Soon after, Mickelson took time off from the game, missed two major championships, was suspended by the PGA Tour, and then became one of LIV Golf’s most prominent signings.

Now seven tournaments in the LIV Golf Invitational series and in the home country of the entity that backs the whole business, Mickelson was asked on Thursday if he could see at the time what was going on. now. He didn’t hold back.

“It has evolved a lot and it will continue to evolve over time; there were a lot of opportunities that were left open for someone to come in and do that,” said Mickelson, who will start playing the 54-hole event on Friday.

“For a long, long time, my 30 years on the PGA Tour, pretty much every top player has played on the PGA Tour. At least the last 20 years. It will never be the case again. I think in the future you will have to choose a side. You have to choose which side do you think he will succeed on.

“And I firmly believe that I am on the winning side of how things will evolve and shape in the years to come for professional golf.”

Mickelson, 52, has faced a lot of criticism for his time at LIV Golf. He returned at the first event in June to heated questions about Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund support for LIV Golf and numerous questions about the country’s motive and human rights abuses. These questions persisted the following week at the US Open.

A winner of six major championships – he became the oldest winner of any major championship when he won the PGA Championship last year – Mickelson suddenly had his credibility questioned and his long playing career pushed into the background.

Mickelson forged. He again suggested that LIV Golf and the PGA Tour talk to each other.

“We play 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,” he said. “And until both sides sit down and have a conversation and find a solution, both sides are going to keep changing and evolving.

“And I see LIV Golf moving up, I see the PGA Tour moving down and I love the side I’m on. And I love how I feel. I love the way I’m invigorated and excited to play golf and compete. love the experience. love the way they treat us.

“I like the way they involve us and listen to us in the decisions. I mean it’s so inclusive, it’s so seamless that what LIV Golf leads. Whether it’s shorts or other aspects of professional golf that will change and evolve, these positions will be led by LIV.”

LIV Golf saw Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Cam Smith, Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Bubba Watson, all former big winners, make the jump.

But he struggled to gain an audience via streaming and without a television rights deal, played in modest galleries and was chastised for his 54-hole shotgun debut with just 48 players as he does pressure for points in the Official World Golf Ranking.

And yet, following Mickelson’s reported comments in February, LIV Golf appeared in trouble. Players who engaged behind the scenes backed down. Rory McIlroy, a PGA Tour fan, declared him “dead in the water.” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan at The Players Championship said the Tour is “moving forward.”

A week later, LIV Golf announced an eight-tournament-limited invitational schedule for 2022. By the time of its second event outside of Portland in late June, it planned to launch its league next year and play a 14-tournament schedule. tournaments. Things moved quickly.

“I’m not surprised, no. I believe in passion—look, the game of golf is very fortunate that the PIF is investing in the game. The sport of the game of golf is pouring in with billions of dollars now. And the ability to go global and make golf a truly global sport is really good for the game,” Mickelson said.

“Now the United States and the United Kingdom are not in favor of this. But everywhere outside the world LIV Golf is loved. And finally they come and they will accept it. But everywhere else in the world, the ability to move these tournaments around the world – and I’ve spoken with people who have had relationships that haven’t been positive with the Tour and have only had experiences positive with LIV.

“It opens up opportunities to move professional golf around the world to other countries and grow the game internationally.

“Now, again, apart from a few countries, the US and the UK, where it is currently viewed very negatively, it has already changed and evolved and over time, in a few years, it will be not only accepted but appreciated, the involvement and the influx of capital into this sport and what it does.”

LIV Golf is hosting three of its eight events outside the United States this year, with plans for at least six of its tournaments to be hosted internationally in 2023.

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