Phil Mickelson, who has not played competitively since incendiary remarks he made in support of a Saudi-backed golf league that hopes to rival the established PGA Tour were reported in February, will end his self-imposed layoff later this week by playing in the primary event of the upstart LIV Golf circuit.
Mickelson, the winner of six major golf championships including last yr’s P.G.A. Championship when he became the oldest golfer to win a serious, will probably be one in every of 48 players competing for $25 million in prize money when the tournament begins Thursday on the Centurion Club near London. Last week, Dustin Johnson, fifteenth in the boys’s world golf rankings, also agreed to compete on the choice tour. A report in The Telegraph said Johnson was paid $125 million to affix LIV Golf, whose major shareholder is the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.
The breakaway tour has also promised hefty appearance fees and a format that guarantees every entrant six-figure payouts.
“This recent path is a fresh start, one which is exciting for me at this stage in my profession,” Mickelson, whose world rating has slumped to 72nd, wrote on Twitter Monday. “I fully realize and respect some may disagree with this decision and can have strong opinions and I empathize with that. I even have a renewed spirit and excitement for the sport,” he added.
Mickelson’s announcement will most definitely result in his suspension from the PGA Tour, which has paid Mickelson greater than $94 million in tournament earnings for 30 years. Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, has said players who decide to play LIV Golf events will probably be subject to discipline that might include suspensions or lifetime bans.
Mickelson, with a fame as a golf firebrand, might relish a court challenge to the PGA Tour’s right to ban him. Monahan has not flinched when asked if he had the authority to discipline players in that manner, insisting that the tour’s lawyers imagine any punishment handed to golfers who play for the rival tour will withstand legal scrutiny.
Mickelson, probably the most recognizable golfers of his generation, drew heavy criticism after he acknowledged Saudi Arabia had a “horrible record on human rights” — including the murder of a Washington Post journalist — but said he was still talking with, and aiding, the brand new tour since it was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Earlier this yr, Mickelson, 51, accused the PGA Tour, where he has won 45 times, of “obnoxious greed.” He later said his remarks were “reckless,” but nonetheless several longtime corporate sponsors, including KPMG and Workday, ended their relationships with him.
On Monday, Mickelson wrote: “I would like to again apologize to the numerous people I offended and hurt with my comments just a few months ago. I even have made mistakes in my profession in a few of the things I even have said and done. Taking time away and self-reflecting has been very humbling.”
The tournament near London is one in every of eight events this yr within the LIV Golf Invitational Series. Early this season, Mickelson competed in three PGA Tour events, missing the cut in two and ending tied for thirtieth within the third.
Although a three-time Masters winner, he skipped this yr’s tournament. On Monday, nevertheless, Mickelson said he intended to play in future major championships. He’s currently in the sphere for next week’s U.S. Open and next month’s British Open.
Greg Norman, the chief executive and commissioner of LIV Golf, who said last week that “free agency has finally come to golf,” praised Mickelson.
“His contributions to the game and connection to fans across the globe can’t be overstated, and we’re grateful to have him,” Norman said on Monday in a press release.
Lots of Mickelson’s colleagues on the PGA Tour, including his longtime rival Tiger Woods, have been critical of Mickelson’s adversarial stance toward the tour.
“The viewpoints that Phil has made with the tour and what the tour has meant to all of us has been polarizing,” Woods said last month.
Rory McIlroy, a four-time major winner, called Mickelson’s comments, “naïve, selfish, egotistical, ignorant.”
Last week, McIlroy, who has been outspoken in his disdain for the LIV Golf enterprise, was dismissive of the catalog of players entered within the tournament to start Thursday on the Centurion Club.
“I actually don’t think the sphere is anything to leap up and down about,” McIlroy said.
But Monday on Twitter, Mickelson was cheerful.
“I’m thrilled to start with LIV Golf and I appreciate everyone involved,” he wrote.