Phil Mickelson joining LIV Golf casts doubt on PGA Tour future

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Phil Mickelson’s return to golf with the LIV Golf Invitational Series after a three-month hiatus from the sport ‘gives the series a jolt in a hairy artery’ as for many he is the ‘perfect figurehead’, according to Rick Broadbent of the LONDON TIMES. He makes a “proper totem” for a series backed by $2 billion and with “aspirations to become a full-fledged super league in 2024.” Broadbent: “Let’s imagine that Mickelson was also happy to start a legal battle when the PGA Tour imposed bans on players.” Many players are “just hedging their bets and waiting to see what happens next.” Without the “fear of bans, tours, majors and Ryder Cups, all that will further impede joining the Saudis is worry about reputational damage and, more importantly, commercialization” (LONDON TIMES, 6/7).

SUSPENDED? In New York, Bill Pennington notes that Mickelson joining LIV Golf’s inaugural event at the Centurion Club in London this week “will likely result in his suspension from the PGA Tour.” He has a reputation as a “golf ember” and he “could enjoy a legal challenge to the PGA Tour’s right to ban him.” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan “didn’t flinch when asked if he had the authority to discipline players in this way, insisting that tour attorneys believe any punishment imposed on golfers who play for the rival tour will withstand legal scrutiny” (NY TIMES, 6/6). Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis said that players who “want to participate in this LIV Golf series, or are at least interested in it, are watching closely what the PGA Tour is doing and what that punishment will be” (“Golf Central”, Golf Channel, 6/6).

EXCEED THE TOUR: Dustin Johnson said this morning that he had “resigned from the PGA Tour”. Johnson: “It’s hard to say what the consequences will be, but at the moment I’ve resigned my tour membership. I’m going to play here for the time being and that’s the plan. What the consequences will be, obviously I I can’t comment on how the tour is going to handle it” (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/7). The AP’s Doug Ferguson notes that Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia’s manager, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace said they “also quit” (PA, 6/7).

OTHER LIV PLAYER REACTIONS: The committed players of LIV met the media this morning to discuss their decisions. Among the reactions:

  • Talor Gooch on participating in a possible sports wash: “I don’t think that’s fair. Also…I’m a golfer. I’m not that smart. I’m trying to hit a golf ball in a small hole. The golf is difficult I try to worry about the golf and I’m excited for this week” (TWITTER.com, 6/7).
  • Graeme McDowell: “I really feel like golf is a force for good in the world — I’m just trying to be a great role model for kids. We’re not politicians. I know you hate this expression, but we really are not, unfortunately” (PA, 6/7).
  • Martin Kaymer: “I would love to play against the best in the world (on the PGA Tour), but right now I can’t. … It was a great opportunity to play a different kind of golf” (SKYSPORTS.com, 6/7).

MISSING IN ACTION: GLOBAL GOLF POST’s Ron Green Jr. writes that Mickelson “gets more than his career earnings” for joining LIV Golf, but he “loses something that can’t be bought: the almost unconditional love of a substantial part of his huge fanbase.” Mickelson was facing a decision “most of us will never face” and he “chose the money”. Mickelson’s sacrifice “comes with a high price that cannot be paid with all that Saudi money” (WORLD GOLF POST, 6/7).

COMPULSORY SOLIDARITY? USA TODAY’s Christine Brennan writes that the PGA Tour should “kick out all those guys ‘who play for LIV Golf, but if the USGA, Augusta National Golf Club, Royal and Ancient Golf Club and PGA of America’ don’t do the same, they’ll leave the PGA Tour on hold.” Brennan: “What a terrible message that would be, sent by the powers that be in golf” (USA TODAY, 6/7).

THE BOTTOM LINE: In NY, writes Ian O’Connor as Mickelson “gets pounded yet again for a move he didn’t have to make”, it is “notable that the PGA Tour has no moral authority in this fight”. By promising to punish and ban players who ‘choose to taste the life of LIV’, the Tour ‘is no more taking a stand against human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia than it has. against human rights abuses in China, a long-time trading partner”. The Tour “simply tries to protect its results”. It’s “gambling” for Monahan, “just like it’s gambling for Mickelson.” O’Connor: “Don’t let any of the golf guards fool you.” The PGA Tour sees LIV Golf as “how the NFL once viewed the USFL: as a competition that must be crushed” (NY POST, 6/7).

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