Phil Mickelson pegs it up this week at the Saudi International for the third time since its inception in 2019. This year however, is the first time it will be sanctioned by the Asian Tour following the DP World Tour's decision to remove its association amid speculation of a Saudi-backed Super League.
Mickelson, when asked about the hot topic this week, confirmed he had received an approach from the Saudi-backed powers to join a Super League. “I think every player has been contacted. I don’t think there’s a player that hasn’t been,” he said. “I’m just saying that pretty much every player that is in the top 100 I would say in the world ranking has been contacted at some point, absolutely”.
The six-time Major champion also praised the knock on effect the Saudi efforts have had on the PGA Tour. “I think everybody is looking at it and seeing parts of it that can really help and benefit their situation, their life, their career, and then there's parts of it that they're probably concerned with. I'm appreciative of the fact that there is competition, and that leverage has allowed for a much better environment on the PGA Tour meaning we would not have an incentive programme like the PIP for the top players without this type of competition.”
The PIP, or Player Impact Program, is a bonus pool set up to reward golfers who drive fan and sponsor engagement. The winner was intended to be kept secret but Mickelson confirmed at the back end of last year that he had topped the standing and scooped the $8m bonus.
The 51-year-old added that the Saudi competition is the driver behind a number of the purse increases that the PGA Tour has recently seen. "We would not have the increase in the FedEx Cup money. We would not have the increase in The Players Championship to $20 million this year if it wasn't for this threat. It was projected to get there in a couple years.
"To have a season-long payout for the top 10 guys on the FedEx Cup list came about last year for the first time at 10 million, it's going to double to 20, I think, and that wouldn't be around. I'm appreciative of the competition, and what my hopes are is that the biggest thing, which are media rights and the way the players have been used for so long, I hope that that changes through the competitive opportunity, as well."
Mickelson, who last tasted victory at the 2020 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, joins a list of golf's hottest stars to have spoken out about the rumoured Saudi-backed Super League. Dustin Johnson described it as a "really good concept" with Patrick Cantlay describing himself as a "curious observer". Lee Westwood refused to be drawn into comment after confirming he had signed an NDA whilst it was reported that Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson face sanctions that would dash any dreams of Ryder Cup captaincy should they chose to join.
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James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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