- The Washington Times
Monday, June 6, 2022

Lefty is back, but not with the PGA Tour.

Phil Mickelson, whose comments about the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series sparked controversy earlier this year, is joining the breakaway tour after all. 

Mickelson confirmed with a statement on Twitter Monday that he and LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman have an agreement that will add the six-time major champion to the fledgling tour.

“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 and is clearly transformative, not just for myself, but ideally for the game and my peers,” Mickelson wrote. 

“I am thrilled to begin with LIV Golf and I appreciate everyone involved.”

Mickelson, 51, hasn’t played in four months, or since his comments about the Saudi-funded tour drew the ire of many in the golf world. The inaugural event at the Centurion Club in London begins June 9. 

Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation,’’ Norman said in a statement. “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.”

Details of the deal between Mickelson and LIV Golf haven’t been officially announced. Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine reported that Mickelson was paid about $200 million to join the new tour. 

That number also tracks with a report from The Telegraph last week, which revealed that world No. 13 player Dustin Johnson, who is also competing in London, was offered $125 million by LIV Golf. 

Mickelson is one of about a dozen PGA golfers who are spurning the tour by playing in LIV Golf’s initial event. The others include Johnson, Kevin Na, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Talor Gooch, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer. Some of them, including Na, Garcia and Oosthuizen, have resigned from the PGA Tour.

Johnson was the biggest surprise on the list as well as the biggest name. But now Mickelson is the marquee figure for Norman. 

Unlike Johnson, though, the Mickelson news isn’t a surprise considering Lefty’s interest in the new league. 

But that interest backfired earlier this year when Mickelson made controversial comments about Saudi Arabia and the LIV Golf series. 

“They’re scary motherf———- to get involved with,” Mickelson said about Saudi Arabia. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.

“They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage.”

Many in golf condemned Mickelson for his comments, especially him saying that he was willing to overlook Saudi Arabia’s human rights concerns to gain “leverage” over the PGA Tour, which he also said has “obnoxious greed.” 

Mickelson later lost his spot as host of The American Express Event on the PGA Tour and was also dropped by sponsors Workday, Amstel Light and KPMG. He apologized again for his comments in his statement Monday.

“I want to again apologize to the many people I offended and hurt with my comments a few months ago,” Mickelson wrote. “I have made mistakes in my career in some of the things I have said and done. Taking time away and self-reflecting has been very humbling.”

According to ESPN, Monahan met with several golf agents last week, telling them that their players will not be allowed to play on both tours. In the past, Monahan has threatened lifetime bans for golfers who join the LIV Golf series. 

The U.S. Open is next week, and Mickelson said he still plans to play in major championships in addition to competing on the new tour. He is currently registered to play in the U.S. Open, which is the only major he’s never won. 

“I also intend to play the majors,” he wrote. “I fully realize and respect some may disagree with this decision and have strong opinions and I empathize with that.”

The purse at Centurion is an eye-popping $25 million — double the U.S. Open’s $12.5 million. The overall purse for the eight-event LIV Golf series is $255 million. Other events on the tour will take place in New Jersey (at former President Donald Trump’s Bedminster club), Oregon, Boston, Chicago, Bangkok and Saudi Arabia.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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