Saudi-backed initiatives will shake golf in the weeks to come. One of the first collateral effects is Mickelson kissing the Masters Tournament.
Phil Mickelson (USA) will miss Golf’s Masters Tournament -a tournament he has won three times- for the first time in 28 years.

This follows a statement he made last month, where he said: “The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level. I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.” (Golf Monthly)

Mickelson has faced backlash -including the loss of some of his largest sponsors- due to his support of a Saudi-backed “Super League”, which reportedly aims to attract some of the world’s top golf players.

The backlash is mostly due to the abysmal Human Rights record by Saudi Arabia, which Mickelson himself also apparently acknowledged in an interview, to be released in an unauthorized biography of the player.

He is quoted as having said: “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 Tour operates. “They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse.” (GolfMagic)

The rift between Mickelson and the PGA Tour is not new. During the 1990’s he was part of a plan with media magnate Robert Murdoch to form a “World Tour” that did not come to fruition.

It is not a good idea for a sport to divide its top players into separate, competing leagues. IndyCar racing destroyed years of growth during the 1990s and 2000s, boxing is confusing to the average spectator due to the number of Champions; and thankfully football’s SuperLeague idea got reverted last year.

The PGA Tour has made it clear that if players want to play the Ryder Cup or other PGA tournaments they have to be PGA members, and players would need to decide between both tours.

Currently, it is possible to play in other tours that have strategic alliances with the PGA, such as the DP World Tour (the European Tour), which has seen much overlap lately and co-sanctions some tournaments, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Sunshine Tour, and other large regional tours.

The idea of having an outright “World Tour” is a good idea. It has already been reportedly part of the discussions between the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but it should ideally come from the consolidation of the tours that have made the sport grow around the world for decades, and not from a public fund aimed at “sportswashing” the human rights violations of a kingdom. They are not necessary.

Former #1, Rory McIlroy (IRL), has made it clear: “I’m in a way better financial position than I was a decade ago and my life is no different. I still use the same three, four rooms in my house. I just don’t see the value in tarnishing a reputation for extra millions.” (Golf Digest)

Mickelson saw the value. He thinks that some things in the PGA Tour need to change, but he hasn’t made the case in point clear as to what needs to change, beyond abstract concepts. Players could be paid more, and the PGA Tour and DP World Tour are increasing the payouts.

Perhaps Mickelson can make good use of this time he has decided to take off the field to think things out. If and when he decides to come back, he also deserves support and comprehension.

Meanwhile, what we know is that the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational will kick-off this year, with eight tournaments -in the US, Saudi Arabia, England, Thailand, and possible another country- and a purse of 250 Million USD, with a different format than PGA’s: 54 holes, not cuts, shotgun starts, and embedded team competition. This tour is led by Greg Norman (AUS), who was the world’s #1 player at some point in the 1980s and 1990s.

Greg Norman claims ( that there is wide interest in this tour and that players can apply for a release to the PGA for some specific events. With the money that is being discussed as of late, it is difficult to think that some players will not jump over, particularly those for which the money they could make for winning a less competitive tournament could be life-changing.

Norman has said that they want to give players more opportunities and that they want to be sanctioned by other tours, and to add to the existing golf ecosystem. They also expect to give World Golf Ranking points.

We will have some of the answers within the next three months. Supposedly, the LIV Golf Invitational will have already started by then. Players should also be free to play wherever they want, and if the price is right, some will.