Phil Mickelson is willing to overlook Saudi crimes, abuses to ‘reshape’ PGA Tour

Phil Mickelson knows the people he’d be getting into bed with should he join the rumored Saudi Arabia-backed golf league.

He’s not holding back when describing them, either.

“They’re scary motherf***ers to get involved with,” Mickelson told author Alan Shipnuck late last year for his new book.

But Mickelson, even knowing all of the horrific things that the country has been accused of doing, isn’t shying away from the idea of joining the proposed Super League. If it can change the Tour for the better, he said, he’s willing to overlook everything else.

“They killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights,” Mickelson said in the book, according to an excerpt Shipuck posted on the Fire Pit Collective on Thursday. “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.”

Justin Thomas: That’s an ‘egotistical statement’ from Phil

Though many Tour members have distanced themselves from the Saudi league both this week at Riviera Country Club and previously, Mickelson is by far the most outspoken about it.

His latest comments, Justin Thomas said after posting a 4-under 67 to open the Genesis Invitational on Thursday, were not surprising.

“Seems like a bit of a pretty egotistical statement,” Thomas said. “I don’t know, it’s like he’s done a lot of great things for the PGA Tour, it’s a big reason it is where it is. But him and others that are very adamant about that, if they’re that passionate, go ahead. I don’t think anybody’s stopping them [from leaving].”

Though rumors have been flying about the league for months now, there still isn’t any concrete or public plans about what the league would look like — other than that Hall of Famer Greg Norman is going to lead it.

More than a dozen golfers have reportedly already agreed to leave the Tour for the league, though it’s unclear who they are. Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson, for example, have been rumored to be at least interested. Others like Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa have shot down the “not-so-Super League,” as McIlroy described it earlier this week.

Mickelson told Shipnuck that he knows “20 guys who want to do this, and if the Tour doesn’t do the right thing there is a high likelihood it’s going to happen.”

The new league is rumored to be planning to have around a dozen events, both in the United States and abroad, and could start as soon as this summer. The events wouldn’t have any cuts, and would have purses much higher than Tour events currently have.

Mickelson’s biggest issue with the Tour is the media rights deal and how little control he and other players have. Mickelson, who has earned more than $90 million playing on Tour in his decades-long career, is also upset that players don’t own the rights to the digital assets of their own highlights — which he said could be worth “multiple billions of dollars” in NFTs. The Tour, for what it’s worth, is planning to launch an NFT platform similar to the NBA’s.

Mickelson, 51, also said that the Tour is sitting on an “$800 million cash stockpile.”

“How the f**k is it legal for them to have that much cash on hand? The answer is, it’s not,” Mickelson said in the book. “But they always want more and more. They have to control everything. Their ego won’t allow them to make the concessions they need to.”

Phil Mickelson
The Saudi Arabians, Phil Mickelson said in a new book, are “scary motherf***ers” to get involved with. (Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

Mickelson: ‘I’m not sure I even want it to succeed’

Mickelson isn’t in the field this week in Southern California. The 45-time winner hasn’t played on Tour since the Farmers Insurance Open last month, when he missed the cut.

Though plenty surrounding the proposed Saudi-backed venture remains to be seen, it’s very clear that Mickelson is ready to jump ship. Whether others join him if that day comes remains to be seen.

Even if the Saudi league fails, Mickelson believes it’s the only way to convince PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to give him what he wants.

“Unless you have leverage, [Monahan] won’t do what’s right,” Mickelson said in the book. “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.”