It’s no surprise that Phil Mickelson is playing the provocateur in the growing film about a Saudi-backed, separatist golf tournament proposed in the hope of attracting professional golfers. top from the longstanding PGA Tour. Mickelson, one of the game’s most famous players, has simultaneously spent nearly three decades vexing the sport’s leadership, whether it’s the August U.S. Golf Association or the PGA Tour, where for which Mickelson has raked in nearly $100 million in career earnings.
So Mickelson’s pedigree as a free-thinking firefighting brand is well established. But even that reputation could not have predicted the prominent comments he made when discussing the proposed Super Golf League, whose main source of funding is the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, a fund sovereign assets worth more than $400 billion.
In an interview for the May release of an unauthorized biography, Mickelson told journalist Alan Shipnuck, the book’s author, that he was aware of the kingdom’s “terrible human rights record,” but was willing willing to help the new alliance as it is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to dramatically increase PGA Tour player earnings.
In a story posted on golf website “The Firepit Collective,” Shipnuck quoted Mickelson as saying the Saudi authorities were “scary” and used vulgar language to describe them. He noted the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist who had was assassinated in 2018 with the approval of the crown prince of the kingdom, according to US intelligence officials. Mickelson also alluded to the criminalization of homosexuality in Saudi Arabia, where it is punished with death.
“We know they killed Khashoggi and have a terrible record on human rights,” Mickelson is quoted as saying. “They executed the people there for being gay. Knowing all this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the way the PGA Tour works. ”
Mickelson’s primary target is Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, who he claims will help players financially only if forced to do so. The emerging league has given players new leverage, said Mickelson. In the first day of this month, in an interview with Golf Digest, Mickelson rated the tour as “obnoxious greed”.
For Mickelson, 51 and a six-time major champion, his remarks will likely only distance him from young golfers rising in the sport. For the most part, the new kings of golf have pledged allegiance to the PGA Tour, which has announced it will suspend any alternative tournament-matched players, along with the potential for expulsion from the PGA. Lifetime tour.
Thursday at the Genesis Invitational, an ongoing travel event near Los Angeles, Justin Thomas, who ranks eighth in the world men’s golf rankings and actively helps establish travel policies, was undeterred when discuss Mickelson.
“It seems like a bit of an egotistical statement,” says Thomas. Referring to Mickelson and any other players looking to defect from the tour, Thomas, 28, added: “If they’re that passionate, keep going. I don’t think anyone stopped them. “
While none of the tournament golfers have committed to the emerging tournament, some golfers, most of them over 45, have made no secret of it and offered soft praise to a few. factors recommended by rival federations, such as fewer tournaments and appearance fees at events, are paid to top golfers regardless of how they perform on the course.
But the split with golfers born after 1985 couldn’t be more conspicuous.
Rory McIlroy, a four-time grand slam champion, called the proposed new golf tournament “a tournament that’s not too sublime.” He added: “I’m so sick of it.”
McIlroy, 32, also suggested that only older players who are past their prime looking for a big day’s pay would consider pulling out of the PGA Tour.
“Definitely I can understand that for guys in the late stages of their careers,” he said. “But I don’t think competitive golf is really like that. That’s not what they want, is it? They don’t want something like the Tour before Champions. “
The Champions Tour is a miniature, separate tournament within the framework of the PGA Tour for golfers over the age of 50.
“You’ve got top players in the world saying ‘no’, so that has to tell you something,” McIlroy said.
Jon Rahm, the highest-ranked male golfer, was also disqualified from the proposed tournament.
“I’m not doing this for the money, that for me is the only calling to get there,” said 27-year-old Rahm. “They throw numbers at you and that has to impress people. I’m in this game because I love golf, love the game, and be a champion. “
Perhaps the hottest young star, 25-year-old Collin Morikawa, shook his head when asked about the potential for a new league.
“I’m all for the PGA Tour, my whole life I’ve thought about the PGA Tour,” said Morikawa, who has won two major championships in the past two years. “I never thought of anything else; it’s always the PGA Tour. ”
Many other players have expressed support for the PGA Tour, most notably the golfer who was once the idol of nearly all the young players who now rise to the top of the tournament rankings.
“I am supporting the PGA Tour,” Tiger Woods said emphatically late last year when asked about the proposed joint venture. “That’s where my legacy is.”
When pressed, Woods appeared almost annoyed and insisted he was not interested in listening to discussions about rival leagues.
Adam Scott, 41, and 2013 Masters champion, didn’t close his eyes on the Saudi-backed tournament when asked about it this week. Over the past decade, Scott has reduced his schedule significantly and dropped to 46th place in the men’s standings. Lee Westwood, 48, and a 25-time European Tour winner, earlier this month said he had signed a non-disclosure agreement and could not discuss the new scheduled tournament.
But most PGA Tour pundits don’t seem to expect a major disruption to the status quo.
Pat Perez, an outspoken traveller, believes Woods’ voice – unsurprisingly – carries the most weight. After all, modern travel builds on Woods’ enormous success. Perhaps one could consider this another chapter in the longstanding Mickelson-Woods rivalry.
“I think the way Tiger approached it was phenomenal,” Perez, 45, said on Thursday. “He understands where he got all his money from. I think these kids, they’re supporting Tiger. What he said was pretty much gold.”
Perez continued: “If you don’t have the top kids doing that, I just don’t know how much water it will hold.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/sports/golf/mickelson-saudi-arabia-pga.html If Mickelson Bolts goes on a Saudi Arabia-supported tour, will young golfers follow?