Phil Mickelson has signed up for the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open, and his manager asked the PGA Tour for permission to play in a Saudi-funded golf tournament outside London without saying whether Mickelson will play any of them.
“Phil currently has no concrete plans on when and where he will play,” Mickelson’s longtime manager, Steve Loy of Sportfive, said in a statement. “Any actions taken are in no way a reflection of a final decision made, but rather to keep all options open.”
Monday was the deadline for players to ask for a conflicting event release from the PGA Tour to play in the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational on June 9-11 in England.
It also was the deadline to register for the PGA Championship, to be played May 19-22 at Southern Hills. Mickelson is exempt as the defending champion, winning at Kiawah Island last year at age 50 to become the oldest major champion.
That also gave him a five-year exemption to the U.S. Open, which this year will be played outside Boston on June 16-19.
It was the first word from the Mickelson camp since Feb. 22, when Mickelson apologized for explosive remarks in a book excerpt by Alan Shipnuck in which he disparaged the Saudis behind Greg Norman’s attempt at a rival league and said he wanted leverage against the “obnoxious greed” of the PGA Tour.
He has not played since the Saudi International on Feb. 6, even skipping the Masters.
Meanwhile, Norman announced the season-ending team championship for his LIV Golf Invitational series would be at Trump National Doral Miami, the first tournament at the “Blue Monster” since the PGA Tour moved a World Golf Championship to Mexico in 2017.
It would be the second course owned by former president Donald Trump to play host to one of the LIV Golf events run by Norman. Trump Bedminster in New Jersey is scheduled to hold a tournament the last weekend in July.
Norman’s plan for a rival league suffered a big setback in February when Mickelson, viewed as a chief recruiter for Norman, was quoted by Shipnuck as saying the Saudis were “scary mother[expletives] to get involved with,” and that he was working with Norman to get leverage for changes he wanted on the PGA Tour.
“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 told Shipnuck, whose unauthorized biography on Mickelson is to be released next month.
Mickelson also said he recruited three other top players and they paid attorneys to write the operating agreement for the proposed league.
Within days, the biggest names in golf – some of whom had been contemplating taking the guaranteed Saudi riches – publicly stated support for the PGA Tour.
Still unclear is who will be playing in the LIV Golf events.
None of the top 10 players in the world has expressed interested in Norman’s venture. Norman since has said the rival league he envisioned will be put on hold for two years. Instead, he said players could sign up for any of the eight tournaments, which offer US$20-million in prize money with an additional US$5-million purse for the team aspect.
Even then, PGA Tour players – no matter their world ranking – cannot apply for conflicting event releases for the five tournaments planned for the United States.
The inaugural LIV event is June 9-11 outside London. Robert Garrigus, who is No. 1,053 in the world, is among those who have asked for a release with hopes of playing.
In an interview earlier this month with The Daily Telegraph in Britain, Norman said with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund behind LIV Golf, the carrot would be hard to resist.
“Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter who plays, we’re going to put the event on,” Norman told the The Telegraph. “There’s a $4-million first prize. I hope a kid who’s 350th in the world wins. It’ll change his life, his family’s life. And then a few of our events will go by and the top players will see someone winning $6-million, $8-million, and say, ‘Enough is enough, I know I can beat these guys week in week out with my hands tied behind my back.’”
The team championship, in which 12 four-man teams compete for a US$50-million purse, is scheduled for Oct. 27-30 at Trump National Doral Miami.
Details and players have not been announced.
Doral held a PGA Tour event from 1962 through 2016. It was a World Golf Championship for the final 10 years until the search for a new title sponsorship led to the WGC moving to Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City.
Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee for president when Cadillac chose not to renew as tournament sponsor and the PGA Tour left Doral for Mexico and the sponsorship of Grupo Salinas.
“I hope they have kidnapping insurance,” Trump said at the time.
Trump was a big personality as the new owner of Doral, even before he ran for office, and the tour said it was difficult to find a corporate sponsor willing to pay upward of US$15-million a year to share the stage.
“I think it’s more Donald Trump is a brand – a big brand,” former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in announcing the Mexico deal. “And when you’re asking a company to invest millions of dollars in branding a tournament, and they’re going to share that brand with the host, it’s a difficult conversation.”