LOS ANGELES — Phil Mickelson has told a journalist writing a biography on him that he recruited three other “top players” for the Saudi-backed golf league and they paid attorneys to write the operating agreement for the proposed league.
In another inflammatory moment for the six-time major champion, Mickelson said his end game is more about a chance to reshape the PGA Tour than for the Saudi league to succeed.
His comments came from an interview with Alan Shipnuck, whose book on Mickelson is due in May. Shipnuck posted a story based on the phone interview on “The Firepit Collective” website.
“They’re scary mother [expletive] to get involved with,” Mickelson says. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA our operates.”
Mickelson said the PGA Tour has been used “manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics” because players had no recourse. He said Commissioner Jay Monahan might seem to be a nice person, but without leverage, “he won't do what's right.”
“I'm not sure I event want it to succeed," he said of the Saudi league. “But just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the tour.”
Justin Thomas, one of several highly ranked players who have said they are not interested in a Saudi-funded league, described Mickelson’s remarks as an “egotistical statement.”
“He's done a lot of great things for the PGA Tour. It’s a big reason it is where it is,” Thomas said Friday from the Genesis Invitational. “But him and others that are very adamant about that, if they’re that passionate, go ahead. I don’t think anybody’s stopping them.”
Mickelson's published remarks come two weeks after an interview with Golf Digest at the Saudi International in which Mickelson accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed.”
Greg Norman is behind the new league with his LIV Investments, which has pumped $300 million into the Asian Tour that is separate from a proposed league that purportedly offers players guaranteed money that only elite players have earned in their PGA Tour career.
One report had Bryson DeChambeau, another Saudi supporter, being offered $130 million, which is more than Tiger Woods has made in his career.
“The tour likes to pretend it's a democracy, but it's really a dictatorship,” Mickelson said in the report. “They divide and conquer. The concerns of the top players are very different from the guys who make their own situation better, but the top guys don't have a say.”
Mickelson did not say who the other top players were, or the attorneys they paid. But he said he has 20 players ready to leave for the Saudi league.
"If the tour doesn’t do the right thing, there is a high likelihood it’s going to happen,” he said.
No one has signed up, or been announced, but most of the speculation has centered around players in the twilight of their careers.
“That's not what they're going to want, is it? Rory McIlroy said Wednesday at Riviera. ”They don't want some sort of league that’s like a pre-Champions Tour. I guess I understand the financial part of it for guys that are later on in their career.
“You look at the people that have already said no,” McIlroy said, mentioning himself, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa for starters. “You’ve got the top players in the world are saying no, so that has to tell you something.”