Phil Mickelson's Stunning Saudi U-Turn...
Lefty admitted he's using the rumoured SGL to "leverage" the PGA Tour
Phil Mickelson has admitted his alliance with the rumoured Saudi-backed Super Golf League (SGL) is just a ruse to “leverage” the PGA Tour.
The 51-year-old appeared all in on the breakaway circuit, but in an excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s upcoming book, titled ‘Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar’, the six-time major winner made it clear he thinks it's merely an attempt to “sportswash” Saudi Arabia's reputation.
“They’re scary motherf*****s to get involved with,” he said. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it?
“Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse.
“As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.”
The issue of media rights has been one that has particularly riled Lefty. Ahead of the Saudi International - at which he earned a seven-figure appearance fee - Mickelson launched a scathing attack on the PGA Tour, claiming those at the helm were guilty of “obnoxious greed” in withholding so much revenue from players.
In his career to date, Mickelson has earned nearly $95 million on the PGA Tour in prize money alone and also benefited to the tune of $8m from the inaugural Player Impact Program - a new $40m initiative launched to reward those who drive the most engagement with fans and sponsors in light of the Saudi threat.
That fund has increased to $50m for 2022 and PGA Tour prize money has also gone up by $60m to $427m in total. But more could be done according to Mickelson.
“The Tour is sitting on multiple billions of dollars worth of NFTs,” he added. “They are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of digital content we could be using for our social media feeds.
"The players need to own all of that. We played those shots, we created those moments, we should be the ones to profit. The tour doesn’t need that money.”
In response to similar allegations made by Mickelson during his latest visit to the Kingdom, a PGA Tour source responded, saying: “Phil’s making stuff up that’s just not true.” Jon Rahm, a close friend, added: “I don’t agree with everything he said.”
And as well as Rahm, players like Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa have all pledged their loyalty to the PGA Tour, meaning, as it stands, the SGL will have to make do without nine of the world's top-10 players.
But despite the setbacks, an announcement is believed to be imminent as to the rumoured 20 players who have signed on to the new series that will be held under the moniker of the Asian Tour. Adam Scott could well be one of the names after admitting "the schedule is very appealing", while it's expected Bryson DeChambeau will front the rebel circuit.
After his latest remarks, it remains to be seen what side of the divide Mickelson will fall on.
A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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