'Obnoxious Greed' - Phil Mickelson Lays Into The PGA Tour

Mickelson launched a scathing attack on the PGA Tour, stating that their greed is "beyond obnoxious”

Phil hits a drive
(Image credit: Getty Images)

At this week's Saudi International, the threat of the breakaway Saudi Golf League is at the highest its ever been, with multiple players stating that they have signed non-disclosure agreements, indicating that an announcement about the launch date is likely to be sooner rather than later.

Phil Mickelson, who said at a press conference on Wednesday that: “Pretty much every player in the top 100 has been contacted at some point,” has, arguably, been the man most closely associated—publicly at least—with the aforementioned SGL.

Phil speaks to media

Mickelson speaks to media at the Saudi International

(Image credit: Getty Images)

However, although many golf fans may disapprove of Mickelson, and other professionals, jumping ship to the Saudi Golf League from the PGA and DP World Tours, the 51-year-old has given a counter to the argument. Specifically, targeting the PGA Tour's stance of media rights.

“It’s not public knowledge, all that goes on,” Mickelson told Golf Digest. “But the players don’t have access to their own media. If the tour wanted to end any threat [from Saudi or anywhere else], they could just hand back the media rights to the players. But they would rather throw $25 million here and $40 million there than give back the roughly $20 billion in digital assets they control. Or give up access to the $50-plus million they make every year on their own media channel."

He continued by saying: “There are many issues, but that is one of the biggest. For me personally, it’s not enough that they are sitting on hundreds of millions of digital moments. They also have access to my shots, access I do not have. They also charge companies to use shots I have hit. When I did ‘The Match’—there have been five of them—the tour forced me to pay them $1 million each time. For my own media rights. That type of greed is, to me, beyond obnoxious.”

Phil and Tiger at the match

Mickelson won $9 million at 'The Match' after he defeated Tiger Woods.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although the PGA Tour declined to comment, it has previously noted that its business model is consistent with other professional sports leagues, in that it relies on these media rights to make the most of its revenue. 

“I’m not sure how this is going to play out,” said Mickelson. “My ultimate loyalty is to the game of golf and what it has given me. I am so appreciative of the life it has provided. I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know where things are headed, but I know I will be criticised. That’s not my concern. 

"All that would do is dumb down one of the most intricate issues in sports. It would be so naïve to not factor in all of the complexities. The media rights are but a small fraction of everything else. And it is the tour’s obnoxious greed that has really opened the door for opportunities elsewhere.”

Bryson hits a drive

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As Mickelson continued his tirade on the media rights, his thoughts then turned to the announcement of the new PGA Tour Netflix docuseries, a series that follows the success of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, in which the programme will detail the ups and downs of the PGA Tour, giving golf fans a look into the real lives of those at the elite level.  

Providing access inside the ropes and behind the scenes of the PGA Tour, many players are on-board with the idea, with the likes Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas among some of the individuals putting their names forward to be in the docuseries.

Mickelson though, isn't one of those players, stating: “Why hasn’t golf had cameras and microphones on players and caddies? Because the player would not benefit, only the tour [so players resist wearing them]. Take this Netflix project that is underway. None of the players are getting paid, but the tour is getting paid a lot of money. As is Augusta National. As is the USGA. If the players had their own channel, maybe they put up their own content and we start to see golf presented a bit more intimately.

“If I had access to my own channel and access to my own media, I would have a camera and microphone on my hat,” he went on. “And on my [caddie] brother’s hat. And on my golf bag with a 360 view. And I would bring the viewers in. They would see and hear what is going on. But none of that happens [currently] because why would any player do that? To make more millions for the tour? They already make enough. The tour only understands leverage. And now the players are getting some of that. So things are changing and will continue to change. I just hope the leverage doesn’t go away. If it does, we’ll be back to the status quo.”

Matt Cradock
Matt Cradock

Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.