Mickelson says LIV on rise and PGA Tour trending downward

Oct 12, 2022, 10:08 PM | Updated: Oct 13, 2022, 10:14 am

Phil Mickelson gives fans surrounding the 18th green a thumbs up during the second round of the LIV Golf Invitational-Chicago tournament Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Sugar Grove, Ill. (Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald via AP)

(Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald via AP)

Back in Saudi Arabia for the first time since his disparaging remarks about the source of LIV Golf’s funding, Phil Mickelson said Thursday he was glad he was on the “winning side” and that he sees the PGA Tour trending downward.

Mickelson had said a month ago that while the PGA Tour had all the best players in the world for the last 20 to 30 years, that would never be the case again.

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

“I think going forward you have to pick a side. You have to pick what side do you think is going to be successful. And I firmly believe that I’m on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf,” Mickelson said.

“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 both sides sit down and have a conversation and work something out, both sides are going to continue to change and evolve. And I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards and I love the side that I’m on.”

Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau were among several major champions Saudi-funded LIV Golf signed to contracts reported to be in the $125 million range.

LIV Golf currently has 12 of the top 50 players in the world ranking — British Open champion Cameron Smith at No. 2 is the highest, while the majority of them are outside the top 25 because LIV Golf hasn’t received world ranking points since it began in June.

The PGA Tour still has a majority of the current stars — 19 of the top 20 — and starts a new schedule in 2023 that will bring the best players together some 15 times a year playing for $20 million prize funds.

These are some of the changes Mickelson wanted all along. The PGA Tour has suspended him and other members who signed with LIV Golf, which is the main plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit scheduled for a January 2024 trial.

LIV Golf has 48-man fields with no cut over 54 holes playing for $25 million each week. Dustin Johnson already has made over $30 million, including an $18 million bonus for clinching the individual points race.

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

In an interview with Alan Shipnuck, who published an unauthorized biography of Mickelson in May, the six-time major champion referred to the Saudis as “scary mother(expletives) to get involved with.”

“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,” Mickelson is quoted as saying.

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

Mickelson issued a statement after the interview saying his comments were off the record and shared without context.

On Thursday he said, “I never did an interview with Alan Shipnuck. And I find that my experience with everybody associated with LIV Golf has been nothing but incredibly positive and I have the utmost respect for everybody that I’ve been involved with.”

This summer has made clear the big divide in golf, with the PGA Tour and European tour wanting no part of anyone who has signed to play with LIV Golf.

The U.S. Open and British Open had allowed LIV Golf players to compete if they were eligible, though both organizations spoke out against the rival league. The Royal & Ancient asked Norman not to take part in the 150th anniversary celebration at St. Andrews in July.

Mickelson said golf is “very lucky” to have Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund invest in the sport. Along with enormous money paid to LIV Golf players and purses, it has invested $300 million in the Asian Tour.

“Now the United States and the U.K. are not favorable to this,” Mickelson said. “But everywhere outside in the world, LIV Golf is loved. And eventually they come around and they will be accepting of it.”

Mickelson, 52, signed with LIV Golf in June, one year after he became the oldest major winner at the 2021 PGA Championship for his sixth major title.

In six appearances with LIV Golf, he has registered only one top 10 — a tie for eighth outside Chicago, seven shots behind Smith.

He contends LIV Golf has reinvigorated him and made him excited to compete.

“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’s so inclusive. … LIV Golf is leading. Whether it’s (wearing) shorts, whether it’s other aspects of professional golf that are going to change and evolve, those positions will be led by LIV.”


More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Canada's Felix Auger Aliassime, right, celebrates with teammate after defeating Australia's Alex de...
Associated Press

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

MALAGA, Spain (AP) — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell to his back behind the baseline, then waited for teammates to race off Canada’s bench and pile on top of him. A few minutes later, the Canadians finally could lift the Davis Cup. “I think of us all here, we’ve dreamt of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said. Canada won […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Arizona State hires Oregon’s Dillingham as football coach

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State hired Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham on Sunday, making the 32-year-old the youngest head football coach in a Power Five conference. “He brings the energy, knowledge and appreciation of our state and university that is valued by all of us,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a […]
1 day ago
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell looks on in the first half of an NCAA college football game agai...
Associated Press

AP source: Wisconsin negotiating with Cincinnati’s Fickell

Wisconsin is negotiating a deal with Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell to try to make him the Badgers’ next head coach, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Sunday. The deal was not done, but Fickell has emerged as the leading candidate and discussions between the school and Bearcats’ head coach were […]
1 day ago
United States' Mikaela Shiffrin competes during a women's World Cup slalom skiing race Sunday, Nov....
Associated Press

Shiffrin’s bid for 6th win on home snow off to good start

KILLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Overall World Cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States was fastest in the first run of a slalom on Sunday as she remained on course for a third straight win in the discipline and a sixth on home snow. Cheered on by a passionate crowd, Shiffrin posted a time of […]
1 day ago
England's Marcus Rashford speaks to the media during a press conference at at Al Wakrah Sports Comp...
Associated Press

Rashford thinks booing of England at World Cup unnecessary

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For Marcus Rashford, the jeers from England’s fans really weren’t necessary. He already knew the 0-0 draw with the United States wasn’t good enough. Certainly not for a team with genuine ambitions of winning the World Cup for the first time since its one and only tournament success in 1966. And […]
1 day ago
Brazil's forward Richarlison, left, scores the second goal for his team during the World Cup group ...
Associated Press

Without Neymar, Brazil takes on Switzerland at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — There’s no Neymar facing Switzerland at the World Cup on Monday. Just Richarlison. And Vinicius Junior. And Raphinha. And Rodrygo. And all the rest of the star-laden options in a deep and talented Brazilian squad lacking its most famous player. “Each and every one is super skilled, even the center backs […]
1 day ago
Mickelson says LIV on rise and PGA Tour trending downward