Phil Mickelson, chief scout for a rival Saudi-funded league for the PGA Tour, ends his four-month hiatus by adding his name to the 48-man field for the LIV Golf Invitational which begins away Thursday from London.
Mickelson will join Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and three other former great champions in a 54-hole tournament at Centurion Golf Club with $25 million in prize money and $4 million for the individual winner.
“I’m ready to come back to play the game I love, but after 32 years this new path is an exciting new start for me at this stage in my career,” Mickelson said in a statement posted on social media.
Mickelson also said he will play the last two majors, starting June 16 at the US Open at the Country Club outside Boston.
He said the “transformer” new league would allow him to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course. Mickelson did not mention the signing fee, which will likely be the full $125 million or more that Johnson would have been paid.
It will be the first time Mickelson has played since February 6 at Saudi International, where he began drawing attention to the way he leaned when he accused the PGA Tour of “odious greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
Two weeks later, Alan Shipnuck published excerpts from his unauthorized biography 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 it meant gaining leverage to make changes on the PGA Tour.
Mickelson also said he and three other top players paid lawyers to draft the new league’s operating agreement. He then apologized for what he called reckless comments, without mentioning the PGA Tour.
But then he was out of sight for four months, skipping the Masters and the PGA Championship, which he had won the previous year at age 50 to become the oldest major champion in history.
Mickelson again apologized in Monday’s statement, adding that he “empathy” with those who disagree with his decision to leave the PGA Tour for a league funded primarily by the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia.
“His contributions to the sport and his connection to fans around the world cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him,” said Greg Norman, CEO and Commissioner of LIV Golf Investments. “He reinforces an exciting area for London where we are proud to launch a new era for golf.”
The PGA Tour has not released any of its 14 members who signed up for the rival series, a list that also includes Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel.
Five more Asian Tour players were added as byes.
Even though Mickelson was the leader in trying to entice players to join, his name was omitted from the original list of champs that was released on Tuesday. The Daily Telegraph reported that Johnson, at No. 15, the highest-ranked player in the world, was paid more than $125 million to join.
The ruling could spell the end of Mickelson’s PGA Tour career, as players who default may face suspensions for violating Tour regulations by playing overseas without a release.
Mickelson has 45 career PGA Tour wins and has amassed nearly $100 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions. He won his first tour in 1991 as an amateur at Arizona State and his most recent title last year at the PGA.
The LIV Golf Invitational is the first of eight such tournaments, five of which are planned in the United States, including two on courses owned by former President Donald Trump.
At least six players on the field have already resigned from their PGA Tour memberships. Kevin Na announced his decision on social media. Garcia, Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Branden Grace’s manager also said they had quit.
Even though he was promoting a new concept, Mickelson seems to be the one who caused the Saudi league to lose momentum with his interviews in February that disparaged the Saudis (“scary mother- (expletive)”) and the PGA Tour (” A dictatorship. They divide to rule.)
All of the top players – including Johnson – initially pledged their support for the PGA Tour. Johnson later changed his mind.