Phil Mickelson vs. The World

Phil Mickelson, LIV Golf, PGA, (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson, LIV Golf, PGA, (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images) /

The PGA has sternly denied any applications by current PGA Tour players to compete in LIV Golf events. Next up? Lawsuits galore.

It was curious how quietly Phil Mickelson’s application to play in the PGA Championship this month at Southern Hills played out. As of today, he’s listed in the field.

Given his status as defending Champion and LIV Golf co-conspirator, many were seeing this as the first test of wills between the out-spoken Mickelson and the PGA Tour. Instead, he was admitted to the field with little fanfare.

Now we know why.

The PGA Tour gave Mickelson just enough rope to hang himself. And he appears to have gladly accepted the offer.

The volcano erupted in February when it was revealed that Mickelson was, in action and in investment, part of the LIV Golf breakaway league challenging the PGA Tour’s dominance.

Had he been open about his actions, he’d simply have been playing the wild card, exhibiting his well-earned reputation as a gambler – an iconoclast thumbing his nose at the Tour that made him hundreds of millions of dollars.

Instead, Mickelson chose backroom dealings and lies of omission – all while publicly bashing what he saw as the greed of the PGA Tour. He went a step further, too. It appears he actively recruited players to the breakaway league without divulging his financial interest publicly.

That was strike one. Maybe even strike one and two.

Strike three came this week when it was revealed Mickelson was among those applying for an exemption from the PGA Tour to play in the inaugural LIV Golf tournament on June 9-11.

Again Mickelson, ever the gambler, entered the PGA Championship and applied for an exemption to the LIV Golf event knowing it would force another clash between the two leagues.

As reports of his massive gambling losses have recently become public, it appears Lefty overplayed his hand again.

The PGA Tour sent an unequivocal message to all Tour members who want to play in any LIV Golf event – hell no.

Doing so would break the regulations of the PGA Tour and could result in suspension or expulsion from the PGA Tour.

Since this tempest arose in February, Mickelson has tried to apologize, bad-mouthed the Saudi government, entered the equivalent of a golfing witness protection program, and plotted his return.

In a previous column, I postulated that Phil wouldn’t play in the PGA Championship. My reasoning was that he’d politely decline and – in effect – throw himself at the mercy of the PGA Tour.

Looks like I gave Phil too much credit.

Instead, he entered the 2022 PGA Championship and applied for an exemption to play in the LIV Golf event next month.

He could have done one or the other and chosen a path for himself. Instead, he tried to straddle the fence, tweak the PGA Commissioner, grab the Saudi cash, and pretend none of us remembered what he did to get himself into this situation.

I’d blame his PR team, but do you really think Phil Mickelson takes advice from anyone?

This is all classic Phil. Throw caution to the wind and screw the odds. FIGJAM! (F— I’m Good, Just Ask Me – Phil’s unofficial nickname on Tour.)

Well, he’s in a jam now.

His options are unappealing at every turn after the PGA Tour denied exemptions to all LIV Golf events.

Withdraw from the LIV Golf orbit and return to the PGA with a giant red LIV hanging from his neck or withdraw from the PGA Championship and the Tour to headline the mortal enemy of the PGA.

Pariah or Traitor. Take your pick.

The ball is now firmly back in Mickelson’s court. He can stand with LIV Golf in what should be a massive antitrust/worker’s rights lawsuit of some sort. Or he can finally get the message and side with the PGA – if they’ll even have him back.

One wonders what the discovery portion of the trial will reveal about Mickelson’s involvement and communications with LIV Golf. If recent history is a guide, I’m betting there will be more than a couple bombshells.

It’s all playing out like a Greek tragedy. Mickelson is Alcibiades, the charismatic general who plays both Athens and Sparta against each other, changing allegiances with the wind, and ultimately becoming a man trusted by no one – exiled and reviled.

Denied! PGA Tour Rejects Requests To Play LIV Golf Invitational Series. dark. Next

A year ago, Mickelson was the toast of golf. His Cheshire grin beneath mirrored aviators meeting the shouts and cheers of golf fans as he strode down the 18th at Kiawah for a PGA Championship.

It is doubtful the tide will ever rise that high again for Phil Mickelson. And he has no one to blame but himself and the greed he accused others of coveting.