Tiger gears up for PGA Championship as Mickelson LIV deal takes shape

A lot has happened in golf over the past seven days, but the flurry of headlines has produced little clarity.

On Tuesday, the PGA of America released the list of players who have signed up for the PGA Championship, which takes place May 19-22, and the two Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the defending champion, have been recruited. Woods even made a reconnaissance trip Thursday to the host site, Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., though he hasn’t said for sure if he will and likely won’t until a few days before the event. .

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Mickelson, on the other hand, emerged for the first time since he said “[I] desperately need time,” after writer Alan Shipnuck published quotes from an upcoming book in which Mickelson called Saudis, who back Greg Norman’s LIV Golf series, “scary mothers.” But on Wednesday, Mickelson’s agent Steve Loy of Sportfive released a statement saying his client had signed up for the PGA and US Open in June, while also requesting a waiver to attend the first LIV event. , which takes place near London on June 9. a week before the Open. “Phil currently has no concrete plans on when or where he will play,” the statement read in part. “Any action taken in no way reflects a final decision made, but rather to keep all options open.”

If Mickelson plays at LIV London, he’ll be in good company. LIV won’t discuss individual names until they officially release the full field on May 27, but Norman claimed in an ESPN interview that around 15 Top 100 players are on board. Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen are said to have at least shown interest. What do these players have in common? With the exception of Oosthuizen (39), they are all over 40 and at the end of their careers. “In fairness, they can all still play a bit, but their involvement makes it all look more like a boon to boost pensions than elite competition,” The temperature’ Alasdair Reid wrote.

This is also true for Mickelson. At 51 (52 in June), he has already started playing some Champions Tour events, and he has been less competitive on the main tour. Besides his surprise PGA Championship win, in the 2020-21 season he missed nine cuts and no top 15s. The telegraph, which reported Tuesday that Mickelson had signed a $30 million contract with LIV to play LIV’s entire eight-event schedule. This nugget remains to be confirmed, but if true, it’s a bargain for Mickelson, who last year earned a measly $2.7 million on the PGA Tour and another $1.5 on the champions tour.

A lot of the money guaranteed to play in 54-hole team events limited to 48 players with no cuts and payouts to every player on the court seems like a pretty good way out of a career twilight, but it has a price. For starters, Lefty and the three Euros will give up a chance to serve as Ryder Cup captains, generally considered a career-ending honor for top competitors. More importantly, from now on, they would lose access to all PGA Tour related events. The most important question, which is still unknown, is what the majors will do. Each of the four is run by other entities, but all are PGA Tour co-sanctioned events. So far they’ve been evasive while offering quotes that vaguely suggest support for the Tour, but their final decision on whether or not to allow LIV players could prove decisive.

So what will happen? Nothing seems to be stopping Mickelson from defending his PGA title. And the Tour often grants waivers for overseas events – it allowed 30 players to take part in the Saudi International in February – so there’s a reasonable chance Mickelson could play at LIV’s London event. . If he does on waiver, the USGA should have no problem allowing him to play in the US Open, the only major tournament he has never won, despite finishing six times with a heartbreaking second.

Except before the Open begins, Mickelson would have to request another waiver if he plans to play in the second LIV Invitational in Portland, Oregon on July 1. It will surely be refused.

This goes against Tour regulations prohibiting competing in North American events the same week a Tour event is taking place, and commissioner Jay Monahan made it clear earlier in the year that he considered a violation grounds for prohibition. At this point, Mickelson could say goodbye to the PGA Tour, the Champions Tour, the DP World Tour (Europe) and leave to earn a living with Norman and his friends.

Or he could press charges.

He’ll certainly have the money for a lawyer or two, and Norman said his “extremely talented legal team in antitrust and anti-competition law” is primed and in the law, although the case may not be as clean cut.

The irony is that many of the benefits Mickelson was seeking through the “leverage” of the LIV deal have been delivered or are underway. He wanted more money for the best players – those who “move the needle” – so last year the Tour created the Player Impact Program, a $40 million prize pool which went to the 10 players who scored the highest on a metric measuring audience engagement. Phil finished second, behind Woods, raking in $6 million in the process. The Tour also increased the FedEx Cup winner payout from $10 million to $15 million, and for 2022, the total purse for all Tour events has increased from $367 million to $427 million. Beyond that, the Tour added another $105 million in various bonus pools.

Mickelson also complained about intellectual property rights, noting that he had to pay to use his own highlights and that he – and other players – were missing out on NFT deals because the Tour owned the rights to all of his events. Friday, Golf.com reported (and Sportico confirmed) that the Tour has entered into NFT agreements with Autograph and Sorare. Players who choose to participate will receive an upfront payment and royalties paid on a sliding scale, players who generate more sales will get a higher percentage.

If all this will satisfy Mickelson, who won approximately $1 billion on golf in his career, is unknown, but the next two months will reveal much about his intentions and the future of the sport.

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