Phil Mickelson has joined the LIV Tour and will participate in the inaugural event at The Centurion Club in St Albans which gets underway on Thursday.
In a statement released on social media, Mickelson, expressed remorse for comments made in April this year about the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA). In an interview with golf writer Alan Shipnuck who is writing a biography on him, the six-time major winner is alleged to have said about the PGA that, “they’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse[…] the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage.”
Despite being threatened with a lifetime ban from the PGA Tour, Mickelson joins the likes of Dustin Johnson, Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, and Ian Poulter in joining the tour. LIV is Roman numerals for 54 – the number of holes the tournament will be played over. A shotgun start and team competition will feature strongly with a player draft system in place. What all this means in practice is anybody’s guess. We’ll find out more when the event gets underway on Thursday.
It has been revealed that Mickelson has been receiving treatment for a gambling addiction. This is something that he may have been referring to in his social media statement. “I have been engaged and intentional in continued therapy”. His addiction has reportedly seen him run up $40m in losses. This is something that Mickelson says he is embarrassed by. Speculation is increasing that Mickelson is experiencing money problems and that joining the LIV tour for a reported $200 million will alleviate these.
Mickelson has been keen to set the record straight about his involvement in the Saudi-backed golf tour. “I also love the progressive format and think it will be exciting for the fans. Just as importantly, it will provide balance, allowing me to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course.”
“I am excited about this new opportunity. I am thrilled to begin with LIV Golf and I appreciate everyone involved.”
Mickelson went on to describe his decision to continue playing in the majors in addition to playing on the LIV Golf tour. Despite missing the Masters and the USPGA, he believes he will be allowed to play in the remaining two, beginning with the US Open next week in Brookline. “I’m under the understanding that I’m able to play,” he said.
He dismissed rumours that he would follow Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na in resigning from the PGA tour. He stated that he had worked hard for his lifetime PGA membership and reiterated his belief that “it’s important for any player to have the right to play wherever they want.”
It’s perhaps a little too simplistic for critics of Mickelson – and the other players who have jumped ship to join the LIV Golf tour – to point only at the prize money on offer. For Mickelson, the dissatisfaction that he has with the PGA can only now be properly expressed.
In a press conference earlier today, Dustin Johnson confirmed that he has resigned his PGA Tour membership, yet still plans to play in the majors. His place in The Ryder Cup team though does come under threat, unless things change. Johnson was optimistic that over time, the PGA might reconsider their position and that things might indeed be open to change.
Ultimately, the conflict between the PGA and LIV Golf tour is likely to be resolved in the courts. One suspects that the PGA will be unable to restrict players’ right to take part in events outside of PGA events or to expel them for doing so. Only time will tell.