Phil Mickelson’s Saudi Arabia Quote Is Truly Baffling Even By His Standards

Is it all about the money for Mickelson?


Feb 17, 2022

Phil Mickelson has always been one of the most fascinating figures in golf, but his dalliance with a new, highly controversial golf league has taken things to new heights.

Mickelson is seemingly destined to join a new golf league backed by Saudi Arabian investments, more specifically the Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

As the Saudi league tries to poach some of the world’s best golfers with massive amounts of upfront money, there are questions about the ethics of making such a move. Saudi Arabia’s checkered human rights past is well known, and while relative strides have been made, it certainly isn’t a shining beacon of freedom on the world stage. As such, the Saudis have been accused of sportswashing, as they try to prove their worth and growth to the rest of the world.

Mickelson, to this point, has been one of the rumored faces of the hostile move. He has been incredibly outspoken about his issues with the PGA Tour and USGA and his public stance is that he wants to see change. That the 51-year-old Mickelson is making this fuss now — after winning $95 million in earnings over his legendary career — feels noteworthy.

Also noteworthy: Mickelson is in line to make north of $100 million for joining the new league, per reports.

With all of that being said, the six-time major winner says — or is least trying to convince himself — that his Saudi flirtation is to inspire change within the PGA Tour.

“They’re scary mother (expletives) to get involved with,” Mickelson told longtime golf writer Alan Shipnuck for an upcoming Mickelson biography. “We know they killed (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 this? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as (PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan) comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want (the Saudi league) to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the Tour.”

A true martyr.

Mickelson did make similar comments earlier this month, alluding to “leverage” as part of his reasoning.

Once again, it must be noted Mickelson is raising a stink after spending his entire Hall of Fame career taking the Tour’s millions with not much objection. Now, as he reaches the twilight of his career — with more than $100 million in front of him — it’s about making things right on Tour?

This all is happening two years after the PGA Tour struck a new media deal that could be worth nearly $3 billion over its lifespan. Purses continue to skyrocket, and the Tour is even instituting new programs to incentivize players.

It does seem like this is all coming to a head. Bryson DeChambeau is reportedly set to leave the PGA Tour to join the Saudi league, and there are reports of 20 players or so ready to jump ship, too. According to Shipnuck, the new league could launch as soon mid-March, opposite the PGA Tour’s Players Championship, the most important non-major tournament on the Tour’s schedule.

Thumbnail photo via Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports Images
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