Phil Mickelsona chief recruiter for a Saudi-funded rival league to the PGA Tour, is ending his four-month hiatus by adding his name to the 48-man field for the LIV Golf Invitational, which begins Friday outside London.
Mickelson will join Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and three other former major champions in a 54-hole tournament at Centurion Golf Club, with $25 million in prize money and $4 million going to the individual winner.
“I’m ready to come back to play the game I love, but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start that’s exciting for me at this stage in my career,” Mickelson said in one expression posted on social media.
Mickelson also said he will play the final two Majors, beginning June 16 at the US Open at The Country Club outside of Boston.
He said the “transformative” new league would allow him to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the pitch. Mickelson didn’t mention the signing fee, which likely accounts for any part of the $125 million or more reportedly paid to Johnson.
It will be Mickelson’s first time at Saudi International since February 6, where he first drew attention to his addiction when he accused the PGA Tour of “insufferable greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
Two weeks later, Alan Shipnuck published excerpts from his unauthorized biography on Mickelson, in which the six-time major champion acknowledges Saudi Arabia’s human rights atrocities, including the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, but says it’s worth getting involved if it means influence to take to make changes on the PGA Tour.
Mickelson also said he and three other top players paid attorneys to write the new league’s operating agreement. He apologized for what he felt were inconsiderate comments without mentioning the PGA Tour.
But then he was out of sight for four months, skipping the Masters and PGA Championship he’d won the year before at age 50 to become the oldest major champion in history.
Mickelson apologized again in Monday’s statement, adding that he “sympathizes” with those who disagree with his decision to leave the PGA Tour for a league funded primarily by the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia agree.
“His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the world cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him,” said Greg Norman, CEO and Commissioner of LIV Golf Investments. “He strengthens an exciting field for London, where we are proud to usher in a new era for golf.”
The PGA Tour did not grant any of its 14 members who signed up for the competitive series a list that also includes Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwarzel.
Five more players from the Asian Tour have been added as exceptions.
Although Mickelson has been a leader in getting players to join, his name was dropped from the original field list released Tuesday. The Daily Telegraph reported that Johnson, ranked 15th as the world’s highest-ranked player, received over $125 million for joining.
The decision likely spells the end of Mickelson’s career on the PGA Tour, as players who go rogue are likely to be banned for violating tour regulations for playing overseas without clearance.
Mickelson has 45 career wins on the PGA Tour and amassed nearly $100 million in career earnings from the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions. He won his first tour event as an amateur at Arizona State in 1991 and his final title last year at the PGA.
The LIV Golf Invitational is the first of eight such tournaments, five of which are planned for the United States, two of which will be on courses owned by former President Donald Trump.
At least six players in the field have already resigned from the PGA Tour. Kevin Na announced his decision on social media. The manager of Garcia, Oosthuizen, Schwarzel and Branden Grace said they have also resigned.
As much as he promoted a new concept, Mickelson seemed to be the one to smother the Saudi league with his February interviews that slandered the Saudis (“scary mother-(expletives)”) and the PGA Tour (“A dictatorship. They divide and conquer.”)
All of the top players – including Johnson – have pledged their support for the PGA Tour. Johnson later changed his mind.
Associated Press coverage.
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