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The saga of Phil Mickelson and the PGA Tour continued on Thursday, as PGA Tour Executives spoke about comments made by the six-time Major champion at the Saudi International last week.
Speaking to Golf Digest, Mickelson said that “ players don’t have access to their own media," and that "if the (PGA) 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 the tirade, 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.”
The PGA Tour, which 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, has now responded to the remarks by the 51-year-old, with one Tour Executive telling GOLF.com: “I’ve never seen anybody be really interested in how we generate the money."
The Executive then went on to say: “There’s some conversation about it now because, you know, Phil’s making stuff up that’s just not true. But in general, they’re happy that there’s a lot of money that comes from it.”
Because Tour players are independent contractors and not employees of the organisation, as is the case in most other sports leagues, they are required to sign a waiver each year granting their exclusive, individual rights to the Tour and its media partners.
Mickelson, who correctly pointed out the Tour charges a fee for those who wish to stage a golf telecast outside of the Tour’s media partners, also said that for "The Match, there were five moments, which he was forced to pay $1 million each for."
However, the Tour has confirmed that Turner Sports actually paid the $1 million rights fee, not Mickelson himself. It was also stated by a Tour source that Mickelson may have even profited from that rights fee. This is because more than half of such fees are added to the revenue pool that the Tour redistributes to players.
As well as the $1 million with The Match, the Tour is also unsure where the six-time Major champion came up with the $20 billion number in digital assets that the Tour controls. “I wish they were,” a Tour executive stated whilst laughing. “No, they aren’t. That’s just not accurate.”
Another Tour Executive also commented that: “Whatever gets generated goes to the players, the same way all other media rights do. If we could make $20 billion on it, we would, believe me. But no one’s figured out how to do that exactly just yet.”
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.
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