Phil Mickelson expresses empathy for 9/11 families amid heat over joining LIV
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Following on from likely the most chaotic year in modern golf memory, Phil Mickelson is promising to shed more light on what really went on amid LIV’s arrival on the scene. ‘Lefty’ was a key tool for the Saudi-funded breakaway and led the line as the first major name to depart the PGA Tour, which ushered in an exodus of stars from the sport’s establishment.
The two competitions are still embroiled in a battle for territory as both look to dominate the same space, with LIV offering much more lucrative sums as the first genuine rival to the PGA. The future of golf will reach a key juncture in February when a hearing decides whether the DP World Tour has the right to sanction and ban LIV players from its competitions, which will in turn influence their participation at the majors.
It didn’t feel as though much was held back at the time as the two parties went to war in 2022, but Mickelson has suggested plenty was left unsaid. Speaking to reporters ahead of the Asian Tour’s Saudi International headliner, however, he hinted it may not be long before he’s allowed to speak his truth.
“I have to be very careful,” the 45-time PGA Tour winner told reporters in Jeddah. “I can’t say all the things I want to say yet. But maybe this year I’ll be able to.
“I’ll have that freedom when some of these things going on off the course get settled and become more transparent. When you have characters in the game, when you have controversy in the game, I think it creates a lot more excitement, a lot more awareness.”
If creating excitement and merely engaging more fans in the sport was always the aim, one might argue there were other ways for him and his fellow LIV rebels to go about things. It was only a year ago Mickelson took time out of the sport after remarks surfaced in which he told author Alan Shipnuck that LIV Golf was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
He also said at the time that he ‘was not sure he even wants [LIV] to succeed,’ but the leverage alone was “allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.” It wasn’t long afterwards that the golf world was thrown into chaos, causing a great deal of uncertainty as to whom will be allowed to compete in major tournaments in the near future.
Controversy has its positives, though, according to Mickelson, who saw merit in the ‘tee-gate’ incident that occurred between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed at the Dubai Desert Classic in January. In fact, the American is looking forward to similar scenes in future, seemingly taking the stance that any publicity is good publicity.
“I thought it was great for the game to have that type of interest, and it’s brought interest throughout the globe,” he added. “That’s a really good thing.
“In a couple of weeks I expect that the LIV players will win their case in the UK, and we’ll open the doors for all players to play on the European Tour. There’s a very good chance that you’ll have more showdowns, more head-to-head competitions like you saw last week in Dubai, and I think that would be a really good thing for the game.”
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