News & Opinion

Are you surprised by Phil Mickelson’s position on rival tour?

Phil Mickelson 2021 Saudi International
Phil Mickelson likes to gamble, but will he roll the dice with the proposed Premier Golf League?

Hawk & Purk debate whether Mickelson, a key figure in a proposed tour, should take the risk – and the money – dangled by Saudis

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the Hawk & Purk podcast on, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.
Does Phil Mickelson’s positive public acknowledgement of the proposed Premier Golf League surprise you?

Hawk’s take: Yes, because nobody has prospered more from playing in the Tiger Woods era, other than Eldrick Almighty himself, leaving one to think Mickelson would be the last guy to seek greener pastures. He ranks second to Woods on the PGA Tour’s all-time money list, having accumulated a staggering $92,434,994, which is probably $90 million more than the world’s second-best mailman. Without question, the left-hander has earned his keep, as his 44 Tour victories attest, but he might not have made half that much dough if the Woods Bakery Co. hadn’t opened a franchise in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

That said, forget about all the bread. Five of those 44 wins were major titles, and Mickelson, perhaps more than anyone, seems keenly aware of the historic significance those big titles have afforded him. Even the richest guy on earth can’t walk down the street and buy a Claret Jug at the corner store. Of course, he’d probably take the limo instead, but it’s fair to believe Mickelson’s mansion on Easy Street wouldn’t be half as lavish without pro golf’s sturdiest empire driving his value.

Lefty turns 51 next month. He’s done winning majors and has won just twice on the Tour since July 2013, so his interest in the PGL has a certain bite-the-hand-that-feeds mentality to it. Surprised? Yes. Disappointed? Nope. In our game these days, it’s every superstar for himself.

Purk’s take: Phil Mickelson is one of the guys for whom the PGA Tour’s once-secretive Player Impact Program was designed, because he’s still one of the two or three most popular players in the game. However, as he nears 51, Mickelson knows that the only tour on which he’ll be competitively successful is the one for guys his age, and it’s a lock he’s not going to win any more majors.

So, if the Premier Golf League – or whatever it’s called now – throws $30 million, $50 million or more at him to play the rest of his career, no one should be shocked that he’d show some interest, maybe a great deal of interest. That’s a big pile of money, and it would be painfully difficult to walk away.

There are a couple of downsides to this for Mickelson – and for any player who would jump ship and take the Saudi money. If the renegade organization folds in a year or two and the players are permanently banned from the PGA Tour, they’d have no place to play except at home with their buddies. Even at that, Mickelson still would be able to play in the Masters and the British Open, being a former champion of each.

But Lefty’s legacy would be greatly diminished if he abandons the PGA Tour, which made him rich and famous. He’s normally a fearless gambler, but he’ll have to ask himself if that’s a risk he can stomach.

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