Phil Mickelson, chief recruiting officer for a Saudi-funded rival league on the PGA Tour, ends a four-month gap by adding his name to the LIV Golf Invitational that begins Friday outside London.
Mickelson will join Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and three other former champions in a 54-hole championship at Centurion Golf Club with $25 million in prize money and $4 million for the individual winner.
“I’m ready to get back to playing the game I love, but after 32 years, this new track is a fresh start, and it’s exciting for me at this point in my career,” Mickelson said in a statement posted on social media.
Mickelson also said he will play the last two major sets, starting June 16 at the US Open at The Country Club outside Boston.
He said the new “transformational” league would allow him to focus on a healthier approach to life both on and off the track. Mickelson did not mention the signing fee, which is likely each part of the $125 million or more paid to Johnson.
It will be Mickelson’s first time playing since February 6 at the Saudi International, as he first began calling attention to how he was leaning when he accused the PGA Tour of “hateful greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
Two weeks later, Alan Shipnock published excerpts from his unauthorized autobiography on Mickelson in which the six-time champion acknowledged human rights atrocities in Saudi Arabia, including the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, but said it was worth getting involved if that It means gain. Leverage to make changes to the PGA Tour.
Mickelson also said he and three top players paid lawyers to write the operating agreement for the new league. He later apologized for what he said were rash comments, without mentioning the PGA Tour.
But then he stayed out of sight for four months, overtaking the Masters Championship and the PGA Championship, which he had won the previous year at the age of 50, to become the oldest major champion in history.
Mickelson apologized again in a statement on Monday, adding that he “sympathizes” with those who disagree with his decision to leave the PGA Tour for the league primarily funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
“His contributions to the sport and his connection to audiences around the world cannot be overstated, and we are grateful to have him,” said Greg Norman, CEO and Commissioner of LIV Golf Investments. “It promotes an exciting field in London as we are proud to launch a new era of golf.”
The PGA Tour did not award releases to any of its 14 members who signed up for the competing series, a list that also includes Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Charles Schwarzl.
Five more players from the Asian Tour have been added as exemptions.
Although Mickelson was the pioneer in trying to get players to join, his name was removed from the original field list released on Tuesday. The Daily Telegraph reports that Johnson, the 15th highest-ranked player in the world, has received $125 million to join.
The decision would likely mean the end of Mickelson’s career on the PGA Tour as players who defected could potentially face suspension for violating tour regulations by playing abroad without a permit.
Mickelson has had 45 PGA Tour wins and earned nearly $100 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions. He won his first round in 1991 when he was an amateur at Arizona State and his most recent title was last year in the PGA Championship.
The LIV Golf Invitational is the first of eight such tournaments, five of which are scheduled to be held in the United States, two of which are on courses owned by former President Donald Trump.
At least six players in this field have already resigned from their PGA Tour memberships. Kevin Na announced his decision on social media. The directors of Garcia, Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Branden Grace said they also resigned.
As much as he was promoting a new concept, Mickelson appears to be the one who caused the Saudi League to lose momentum with his February interviews that belittled the Saudis (“Frightful Mother – (expletive)”) and the PGA Tour (“A Dictatorship. They swear and block.” .”)
All the top players – including Johnson – initially pledged their support for the PGA Tour. Johnson later changed his mind.