Phil Mickelson says LIV is up and the PGA Tour is headed down

Returning to Saudi Arabia for the first time since his derogatory comments about the source of funding for LIV Golf, Phil Mickelson said on Thursday that he was glad he was on the “winning side” and that he saw the PGA Tour headed downhill, and he denied doing so. The infamous interview with author Alan Shipnock.

Mickelson had stated a month ago that while the PGA Tour has featured the best players in the world over the past 20-30 years, that will never be the case again.

He came out stronger at a press conference for LIV Golf Invitational-Jeddah, which begins Friday at the Royal Greens in King Abdullah Economic City.

“I think going forward you have to choose a side. You have to choose which side you think is going to be successful. And I firmly believe that I am on the winning side of how things will develop and shape in the coming years of professional golf,” said Mickelson.

“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 the two sides sit down and debate and do something, both sides will continue to change and evolve. And I see LIV Golf going up, and I see Tour PGA is going downhill and I love the side I’m on.”

In an interview with Shipnuck, who published an unauthorized biography of Mickelson in May, the six-time lead champ referred to the Saudis as “scary mothers to get involved.”

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“We know they were killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi has an appalling human rights record. They execute people there for being gay. Knowing all this, why am I even thinking about it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour works,” Mickelson was quoted as saying.

The interview was published two weeks after Mickelson played for the Saudi International at Royal Greens.

Mickelson released a statement after the interview saying his comments were unpublishable and were shared without context.

He said on Thursday, “I’ve never interviewed Alan Shipnock. I find my experience with everyone associated with LIV Golf to have been nothing but incredibly positive and I have the utmost respect for everyone I’ve been involved with.”

Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau were among the many major champions of Saudi-funded LIV Golf who signed contracts in the $125 million range.

LIV Golf currently has 12 of the top 50 players in the world rankings – British Open champion Cameron Smith is second highest, while the majority of them are outside the top 25 because LIV Golf has not had the world ranking points since it started in June.

The PGA Tour still features the majority of current stars – 19 of the top 20 – and begins a new table in 2023 that will bring the top players together about 15 times a year playing with prize money of $20 million.

These are some of the changes Mickelson wanted all along. He was suspended by the PGA Tour and other members signed with LIV Golf, the lead plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit scheduled for January 2024.

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LIV Golf has a 48-player uncut course over 54 holes for $25 million each week. Dustin Johnson has already made over $30 millionincluding a $18 million bounty for winning the Singles Points Race.

Mickelson was seen as the chief recruiter for LIV Golf leader Greg Norman, and it was his comments in February that slowed LIV Golf’s opening year.

This summer has illustrated the great divide in golf, as the PGA Tour and the European Tour don’t want any part of anyone signed up to play LIV Golf.

The US Open and British Open allowed LIV Golf players to compete if they qualified, although the two organizations spoke against the rival league. The Royal & Ancient asked Norman not to participate in the 150th anniversary celebration in St Andrews in July.

Mickelson said golf was “very lucky” to have the Saudi sovereign wealth fund invested in the sport. Besides the massive money paid to LIV Golf players and wallets, I invested $300 million in the Asian Tour.

“Now the United States and the United Kingdom are not in favor of that,” Michelson said. “But everywhere out of the world, LIV Golf is loved. And in the end they come and accept it.”

Mickelson, 52, signed with LIV Golf in June, one year after becoming the oldest major winner of the 2021 PGA Championship to claim his sixth major title.

In six games with LIV Golf, he scored just one of the top 10 – a tie for eighth outside Chicago, and seven shots behind Smith.

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He asserts that LIV Golf has reinvigorated him and got him excited about the competition.

“I love the experience. I love the way they treat us. I love the way they involve us and listen to us in decisions,” he said. “I mean it is very comprehensive… LIV Golf is the leading one. Be that as it may [wearing] Shorts, whether it is other aspects of professional golf that will change and evolve, these attitudes will be led by LIV.”

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