Phil Mickelson has made it abundantly clear that he believes if the PGA Tour leadership had latched onto some of his ideas to emphasize its marquee players, it wouldn’t find itself in the position of contending with LIV Golf. And to take it a step further, maybe the upstart Saudi circuit wouldn’t have come into existence at all.
It is Mickelson who was the first big star to jump to LIV while also becoming the original lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the PGA Tour over antitrust violations. Mickelson and six others from the original 11 players in the lawsuit have since withdrawn their names, while LIV Golf joined the suit, but the five-time major winner is happy to point out that he had similar ideas that are now being used by the PGA Tour.
On Tuesday at the Players Championship, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan officially announced that there would be eight tournaments in the 2024 PGA Tour season and beyond that would be considered “elevated,” with those joining the four majors, three FedEx Cup Playoffs events and the Players Championship as the most rewarding draws in the game. The eight tournaments will feature limited fields of 70 to 80 players, with no cut, larger purses and more points awarded for the FedEx Cup.
Mickelson, 52, didn’t take long to respond to that news.
On Twitter, he claimed, “Before I left I brought a $1 billion commitment from a current PGA Tour partner to have 8 elevated events and give equity and ownership in these events to the players. JM’s quote was “I don’t believe the league is going to happen so we won’t be doing that.” No vote, no discussion.”
It was a year ago in February that Mickelson—not yet having announced he was heading for LIV—took on the PGA Tour in an interview with Golf Digest at the Saudi International, ultimately blaming the American circuit’s “obnoxious greed” for opening up opportunities for rival leagues.
At the time, Mickelson pointed to the players not being able to control their own media rights and images. He noted at the time how the golfers were not going to be paid to appear in the first season of the Netflix series, “Full Swing,” while adding, “But the tour is getting paid a lot of money. As is Augusta National. As is the USGA. But 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.”
“It’s not public knowledge, all that goes on,” Mickelson later said. “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.”
Mickelson then became embroiled in controversy for the comments that were attributed to him by writer Alan Shipnuck, who was writing an unauthorized biography on the golfer. The 45-time tour winner removed himself from competition for the next four months, missing both the Masters and his title defense of the PGA Championship, before making his return to competitive golf in June for LIV Golf’s inaugural event in London.
At LIV’s tournament in Saudi Arabia in October, Mickelson said, “I firmly believe that I’m on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf. We play against a lot of the best players in the world on LIV and there are a lot of the best players in the world on the PGA Tour. And until … both sides sit down and have a conversation and work something out, both sides are going to continue to change and evolve.”