LOS ANGELES (AP) — The business logo associated with Phil Mickelson for years has never been more correct than it is now, minus the expectation of something extraordinary.
What will Phil do next?
Whether his true intentions are chasing Saudi Arabia money or gaining more control over how he thinks the PGA Tour should be run, Mickelson has had people manipulate to get what he wants.
Lefty was once seen as leading the charge for players ready to join a Saudi golf league, and he is now alone among those with real clout.
Dustin Johnson announced his support for the PGA Tour on Sunday, and Bryson DeChambeau was soon tagged by default. None of the world’s top 12 players – and that doesn’t include Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth – have signaled any interest.
What’s the point of joining a league that doesn’t have A-list players?
“I’m sure he’s kind of sitting at home rethinking his situation and where he’s going from here,” said Rory McIlroy.
For Mickelson, it’s not as easy this time as a simple apology.
It worked when in 2013 he complained about paying too much tax in California. When he got involved in illegal stock trading, he refunded the government the $931,000 (plus interest) he earned in one week.
Mickelson was a relief defendant and was never charged, but most telling was what he vowed when it was over: “I must be responsible for the people I deal with.”
This time, he left a lot of debris behind.
Greg Norman and his LIV Golf Investments, who are trying to create a competitive league by offering matchless fortunes, have every reason to be outraged. Mickelson explained in his explosive interview with author and golf writer Alan Shippink at The Fire Pit Collective that his threat to join the “Super Golf League” is about gaining leverage to change the PGA Tour.
“I’m not sure I want him to succeed,” Mickelson said of the funded Saudi league. “But just the idea that it allows us to get things done through the tour.”
And here Norman thought he was using Mickelson to exact his revenge against the Tour.
As for the Saudis? Imagine the reaction of those who control the money chains of this proposed league, the Public Investment Fund, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In the interview, Mickelson referred to them as “scary (expletive) moms who can handle”.
The fans he’s earned over his 30 years with thumbs-up gestures, hours of read autographs, six major championships, and countless thrills and spills shouldn’t be overlooked.
This is how he explained his pursuit of the Saudi League in the interview with Shipnuck:
We know that they killed[Washington Post columnist Jamal]Khashoggi and they have an appalling human rights record. “They execute people there for being gay,” he said. “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.”
How do you recover from it?
Would a sponsoring company want to be associated with this kind of thinking?
This is not an excuse like someone making fun of the rules by stopping a moving ball on the green lawn as they did at Shinnecock Hills at the US Open 2018. This is not someone who thinks California is taking too much of their money.
Mickelson has not played since the Saudi International, criticizing the PGA Tour for “hateful greed” while collecting a seven-figure appearance fee. He’s not playing this week and no one is sure where he will appear next, let alone what he will do or what he will say.
The PGA Tour does not disclose disciplinary action. However, there is still talk about whether Mickelson will face suspension for his harmful remarks (where do we begin?) and for saying in the interview that he and three other unnamed players pushed lawyers to write the operating agreement for a rival golf league. He said the players would have control. Of course it certainly is.
It remains to be determined whether Mickelson lost the locker room or lost his marbles.
He did not announce that he was leaving. There is no evidence that he signed with the Saudis.
DeChambeau was said to be leaning like that, with a bid of $130 million and many tales of his bad faith towards the tour. But he said – after Johnson laid his cards on the table – that as long as the best players are on the PGA Tour, that’s where DeChambeau plans to be.
Anyone joining the new league risks being banned from the PGA Tour and, therefore, is unlikely to participate in another Ryder Cup. Mickelson has long been seen as the natural choice for captain at Bethpage Black in 2025.
I’ve always loved New York Lefty. Is it still? The bigger question is whether he can restore the players’ respect.
Justin Thomas referred to Mickelson’s comments as “arrogant”. McIlroy was particularly strong even while trying not to “kick someone while they were falling”. It was inevitable.
“Naive, selfish, conceited, ignorant. Too many words to describe this interaction with Shipnuck,” McIlroy said. “It was so surprising and disappointing.”
He gave another word: sad.
The last amateur to win the PGA Tour. The jump when he finally won his first major. Unimaginable when he won his sixth major at the age of 50, a moment that defined his incredible talent, longevity and enthusiasm for the game.
Mickelson had it all – adoration and fortune.
With his boldest and daring play of control, Mickelson may only be able to save the latter at great cost.
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