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Phil Mickelson symbolizes the chaotic world of golf and will not defend the PGA Championship title as Saudi scheme, greed and sports washing cast a shadow over Southern Hills


If you last read about golf before February 2, grab a cup of tea and some cookies.

We’ve got a lot to discuss – but most of it can be summed up in the wacky world of Phil Mickelson.

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A lot has changed since Mickelson won the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah Island

For those who haven’t been paying attention, the 51-year-old is the oldest major champion in history and is set to head to Southern Hills in a blaze of glory, defending his PGA Championship title as one of the golf’s most beloved figures.

But all that changed in February. And ‘Lefty’, who hasn’t been seen or heard from publicly since, just pulled out of his title defense next week. So how did we get here?

Ahead of this year’s Saudi international, Mickelson launched an explosive attack on the PGA Tour, accusing it of “abhorrent greed” for monopolizing “his” media rights – and admitted he was exploring options elsewhere.

There’s a lot to unpack there. Crucially, though, it came amid rumblings of a Saudi-backed Super League run by Greg Norman’s LIV Golf Investments, funded by the Public Investment Fund.

Every player in the world’s top 100, including Mickelson, has been offered eye-watering sums of money to channel their own greed into joining the breakaway draft.

Having gained a foothold in Formula 1, boxing and Newcastle United, among others, golf was next on the PIF’s agenda in its ever-growing bid to hide Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. man through sport.

Phil Mickelson symbolizes the chaotic world of golf and will not defend the PGA Championship title as Saudi scheme, greed and sports washing cast a shadow over Southern Hills

Koepka has previously spoken out against Mickelson’s ‘greed’ accusations


It was getting bigger too. Great champions Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau were among the biggest global stars likely to be interested – until Mickelson accidentally called the Saudis himself.

In a leaked conversation with journalist Alan Shipnuck, whose autobiography on the six-time Major winner is set to reveal hard truths on May 17, Mickelson described Saudis as a “scary mother *******” and admitted that he was only trading with them to gain leverage on the Tour.

The American has apologized and announced an indefinite hiatus, missing the Masters in April for the first time in 28 years, amid continued uncertainty over whether he is actually banned from the Tour.

Nevertheless, after this small bump in the road, the double Open Norman champion announced plans to move forward with the Saudi-backed league, admitting Mickelson’s comments had forced a change of plans due to player and sponsor dropouts.

It’s now called the LIV Golf Invitational, an eight-event series that kicks off at the Centurion Club, just outside St Albans, on June 9, and boasts the biggest purse in golf history – with plans for a full-fledged Super League by 2024. .

A few problems persist, however. The PGA Tour and DP World Tour blocked releases for players wishing to compete in the first event, exposing most players to fines, suspensions or other penalties.

Phil Mickelson symbolizes the chaotic world of golf and will not defend the PGA Championship title as Saudi scheme, greed and sports washing cast a shadow over Southern Hills

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The PGA Tour overwhelmingly opposes Norman’s plan

The typically rambunctious Norman doesn’t expect the threat of bans to hold up in the courts, where this battle is bound to end, and promises legal support for any player willing to take the risk.

Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and, of course, world number 1080 Robert Garrigus have reportedly asked for releases – and Norman hopes others will join once the established legality. release.

It’s Mickelson’s position that pretty much sums it all up. He filed for release to play in LIV Golf’s inaugural event and also signed up to defend his PGA Championship title in the same press release from his manager – then pulled out of Southern Hills without even issuing his own statement.

That kind of sums up what the world of professional golf looks like right now. What happens next?

The sport is jam-packed with beds made without lying, cake both eaten and eaten, with Mickelson the biggest of them all. That unboxing we were talking about earlier? Let’s take a break.

Disreputable as it is, accepting a huge check as an independent contractor approaching the twilight years of a career is, at least, understandable. It’s easy to see why a struggling Korn Ferry or Challenge Tour player might also be tempted.

And while star game attractions like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy show no interest, the tournament near St Albans will be nothing more than a very expensive farce. It could even be a group of amateurs playing for $25 million if the PGA Tour deterrent works.

But as world No. 8 Justin Thomas said recently: if you want to go, please go.

Both Westwood and Garcia have tried to claim a bizarre form of high morality in recent weeks. You can’t have it both ways.

Although he initially admitted his decision was about money in a recent interview, Westwood went on to say things were looking up in Saudi Arabia – where 81 people were executed in March – and critics simply fear of change.

He also provided a clear definition of sportswashing saying that golf shouldn’t be scrutinized so much because other sports get Saudi funding.

Garcia, meanwhile, told a rules official he was “looking forward to getting off this tour” after earning a questionable Wells Fargo Championship decision.

Perhaps he doesn’t know that LIV Golf has hired longtime PGA Tour official Slugger White to oversee their rules – which will be the same as, uh, the PGA Tour.

Elsewhere, Norman delivered perhaps the most unusual defense of Mohammad bin Salman’s regime to date when he was recently questioned about the 2018 murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, allegedly sanctioned by the crown prince, who denied it.

Norman said, “Look, we’ve all made mistakes, and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can fix them in the future.”

That’s where we are with golf right now, and don’t be fooled into thinking the established circuits are blameless victims. All of these guys, namely LIV Golf point guards Mickelson and Norman, will tell you that they’re just trying to “grow the game”.

The revolutionary ideas involved in the LIV Golf Series – 54 holes, shotgun tees, no cut lines, team elements and IPL-style franchises – have the power to bring a much-needed new look to golf. But not like this.

Phil Mickelson symbolizes the chaotic world of golf and will not defend the PGA Championship title as Saudi scheme, greed and sports washing cast a shadow over Southern Hills

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PGA Championship week should be a celebration of Mickelson’s triumph – but he will face very different questions

There is a way to revolutionize golf in its current ecosystem and without PIF money. Yes, it’s about bigger handbags and pie slices for the world’s top ten, but it’s also about improving the product.

The Premier Golf League – a separate scheme, initially backed by Saudi money but not anymore – has been shouting about these ideas for years.

They want to work with the PGA Tour, create a league with promotion and relegation, taking F1 as inspiration to generate seismic interest in an individual sport with new creative ideas.

Golf has stagnated and it is the responsibility of the PGA Tour to stand still, refuse to evolve and open the door to something sinister to own what the future of golf might look like, post-Tiger. The DP World Tour literally opened the door by sanctioning the Saudi Invitational for years.

Rather than encouraging a child to buy a golf club or to think about how the lower levels of the golf pyramid can benefit, all the LIV Golf Series wants to grow is pocket size. of millionaires and the silence on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

We don’t even know who will stream the first event – amid suggestions it will be on YouTube – and this thing starts in a few weeks. There is a lack of subtlety, thought and care for the golf that makes this scheme even more cynical than a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix or an Anthony Joshua fight at the Diriyah Arena.

Phil Mickelson symbolizes the chaotic world of golf and will not defend the PGA Championship title as Saudi scheme, greed and sports washing cast a shadow over Southern Hills

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Sport is full of Saudi investment – but that’s no excuse for golf

None of this is good, but it is worse.

And if you get paid to put morality aside, expect to earn your money. It’s no surprise that Mickelson is likely breaking his media silence at a LIV Golf event rather than the PGA Championship.

As we approach what should be one of the most exciting Majors in years, with Mickelson in defense and Woods back in competition, the narrative is a bit grim.



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