Golf great Phil Mickelson ended four months of speculation by announcing he will play in an upcoming Saudi-sponsored series of golf tournaments for what is almost certainly a nine-figure payday — and the end of his PGA career.
Mickelson said Monday he will tee off in the Kingdom’s LIV Golf series later this week after not playing for four months and delaying with a barrage of bad publicity. The move wasn’t completely unexpected, as Mickelson had wavered back and forth since playing Feb. 6 in the Saudi International. But it gives the petro-funded upstart tour huge star power.
“I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career,” Mickelson wrote on social media.
Phil Mickelson, a chief recruiter for a Saudi-funded rival league to the PGA Tour, is ending his four-month hiatus from competitive golf by adding his name to the 48-man field for the LIV Golf Invitational that starts Friday outside London. https://t.co/JkFHrTM3ho
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 6, 2022
The defection likely brings Mickelson’s career on the PGA Tour to an end, as he would face suspension for violating tour regulations by playing overseas without a release. The PGA Tour denied releases to all 14 members who have signed up for the rival series.
It’s a coup for golf legend Greg Norman, who has been the chief architect of the Kingdom’s answer to the PGA.
“Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation,’’ Norman said. “His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the globe cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him. He strengthens an exciting field for London where we’re proud to launch a new era for golf.”
LIV Golf last week announced a 48-player field for its first event, a 54-hole tournament June 9-11 at Centurion Golf Club near London with $25 million in prize money and $4 million going to the individual winner. American Dustin Johnson was the biggest name on that list, but with Mickelson in the fold, the Saudi tour has a trophy to tee off. It was not known how much Mickelson is being paid, but Johnson reportedly got a $125 million “signing fee” to play in a series of LIV Golf tournaments and Mickelson is assuredly receiving at least as much.
Just weeks after Mickelson played in the Saudi tournament in February, excerpts from a coming unauthorized biography quoted him referring to Saudi Arabia’s human rights atrocities, including the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The quotes likely caused some awkwardness with the Saudi tour’s officials and may have led to months of dithering by Mickelson.
The book, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” by Alan Shipnuck, also alleges Mickelson racked up a stunning $40 million in gambling losses from 2010-14, according to excerpts.
Mickelson, known to fans as “Lefty,” has won 45 PGA tour events, including three Masters, two PGA championships and one Open. Last year’s PGA victory made Mickelson the oldest golfer to ever win a major championship.