PGA Tour pro Keith Mitchell has spoken of his fears for the future and the impact the launch of LIV Golf will have on golf long term.
The 2019 Honda Classic winner is very much a PGA Tour man, but that doesn’t stop his mind constantly whirring when it comes to LIV Golf and its impact on the game.
“I wake up thinking about it, I go to bed thinking about it - it’s legitimately all I think about,” he told Golf Digest. “These guys going over are taking money away from golf. If they have 14 events, they’re gonna go against the 14 weakest fields on the PGA Tour. Why would sponsors of the PGA Tour keep funneling all this money if they’re going to have trash fields? I think it could hurt sponsors, it could hurt overall income of the game. More money going to less players.
“The more this drags out, the more people are picking sides. Before this was all going down, everyone just kind of talked about it. What’s the format? Who’s going to go? It was honestly a naive rumour that guys were interested in. It piqued their curiosity. And now the clearer it gets, the more guys are picking sides.”
Mitchell says all the rumours over who is and isn’t going are not helping, even hearing about offers he has supposedly received.
“I had one of my biggest sponsors call me on the phone and tell me he heard I got $61million,” he continued. “I asked him what his source was, and it was actually pretty good. Reputable sources are saying these complete fabrications. An exact number and years. I’ve never even talked to the guys.”
A number of players who have left for LIV Golf have taken parting shots at the PGA Tour, but Mitchell has sought his own answers and come to very different conclusions. Having had a conversation with a player director on the PGA Tour’s policy board, Mitchell is happy that there is nothing in the criticisms leveled by those heading for the exit.
Mitchell told Golf Digest: “I asked him all these questions and he told me he walked into being a board member thinking the Tour was holding out on us. Two and a half years later, he left knowing the Tour does everything in their power to grow the business to make us more money. I’m not in the board meetings. None of those guys over at LIV are in the board meetings. I can promise you they didn’t call the board of the PGA Tour.”
Another point of disagreement with the LIV players comes with the argument that they are independent contractors and free to play where they want. Mitchell feels signing with LIV makes them like employees far more than they ever were on the PGA Tour.
“What really makes me mad is that the whole narrative started with independent contractor stuff with the PGA Tour,” he told Golf Digest. “They wanted to play wherever they want because they are independent contractors. But now these guys aren’t even close to that at LIV. They’re employees. It’s dumb. I agree that the PGA Tour might not be a perfect independent contractor model but don’t go acting like that’s the reason you left, because you’re way more in an employee mode now.
“The LIV guys talk about these things coexisting—fine, sure, they can coexist. Play your events, but don’t try to play ours. You can’t cherry pick the best parts of the PGA Tour when we’re not allowed to cherry pick yours. You’re just finding the holes in the PGA Tour system, exploiting them, and acting like the PGA Tour is the big bad devil that did you so wrong. And that is just so false.
“If a guy sues the PGA Tour, he is suing all of us, including Tiger Woods, because they believe they were mistreated … so they can then play more events, which is the whole reason they left? Come on.”
The only LIV golfer spared the wrath of 30-year-old Mitchell is Pat Perez, who likened signing for LIV Golf to being ‘like winning the lottery’.
Mitchell said: “Pat Perez looked me in the eye the week of Memorial and said ‘I cannot beat you 20-year-olds and young 30-year-olds anymore. I can’t do it. I want to go if they can cover all my expenses.’ He was right and he was honest. That’s the only person whose explanation I respect over there right now.”
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Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!
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