Phil Mickelson stuns golfing world by joining rebels in Saudi opener

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Watch: Phil Mickelson files request to play Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Invitational in London

Phil Mickelson stunned the world of golf on Monday night by joining Sergio Garcia in signing up for the first Saudi rebel event in St Albans in June.

On a hectic day when Telegraph Sport learned that Garcia had joined Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood as European heavyweights willing to risk their Ryder Cup futures by teeing it up at the Centurion Club, Mickelson, as he tends to, stole grandstand spotlight and also announced he will defend his US PGA Championship by entering next month’s event at Southern Hills.

“Phil is officially registered to play in the [US] PGA, as well as the US Open [at Brookline, in June],” a Mickelson spokesperson said. “We have also filed a request for a release to play in the first LIV Invitational. Phil currently has no concrete plans on when and where he will play.”

The 51-year-old has not played since, ironically, the Saudi International in February. A few weeks later he was quoted in a forthcoming book as calling the Saudis “scary motherf—s to deal with” and revealing he only put up with their “horrid human rights record” because it handed him “leverage” in his battle with the PGA Tour over media rights.

The outcry which greeted those comments - with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan signifying he needed to explain himself before reappearing on the world’s biggest circuit - forced Mickelson to perform a dramatic U-Turn and announce an indefinite break from the sport.

Mickelson, a three-time recipient of the greenjacket, missed last month’s Masters but now, without apparently talking to Monahan, he is ready to defend his US PGA title in Tulsa.

Watch: Phil Mickelson To Miss Masters for First Time in 28 Years

It would be a great shame if the left-hander did not as last year he made history by becoming the oldest player ever to win a major. Two weeks after trying to retain the Wanamaker Trophy he will then head to Hertfordshire.

Monday was the last day for PGA Tour members to apply for a release to tee it up at the Centurion and it is understood that as many as 20 pros applied, including at least four major-winners.

Westwood, the former world No 1, and Poulter have previously been connected with the series, run by Greg Norman and back by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, and if that pair and Garcia are chasing the $4million first prize in the 54-holer, then Europe’s chances of beating the US in Rome next year and in the matches beyond could conceivably be affected.

While Monahan will probably grant dispensation - the first LIV event in the US at the end of June will be his flashpoint - then word from inside the DP World Tour - formerly the European Tour - is that chief executive Keith Pelley could come down hard on the rebels.

Phil Mickelson of the United States tees off on the 14th hole during day one of the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on February 3, 2022 in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia. - GETTY IMAGES
Phil Mickelson of the United States tees off on the 14th hole during day one of the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on February 3, 2022 in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia. - GETTY IMAGES

The DP World Tour’s deadline is Tues, May 14, which will make this a tense fortnight at Wentworth HQ. The dilemma is stark. Garcia is the match’s all-time leading points scorer and is only 42 and the threesome were all previously considered as shoo-ins as future Europe captains.

Inevitably it would result in a sizeable legal struggle, with Norman’s lawyers primed to pounce on any sanctions that would limit his pros’ playing options.

World No 15 Louis Oosthuizen is set to be the top-ranked player on show at Centurion, with the 2010 Open champion apparently lured by the huge purse which will hand over $120,000 to the player finishing last in the no-cut tournament.

Kevin Na, the world No 32, is looking to provide a bit more American presence.