Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson said Wednesday that more PGA Tour players will jump to Saudi-backed LIV Golf despite a framework agreement for a merger by the end of 2023.
The 53-year-old US left-hander, among the first to leap from the PGA to the upstart circuit last year, spoke Wednesday ahead of Friday’s start of the season-ending LIV Golf Team Championship at Doral.
“I’ve been fielding calls, as we all have, from players that are free agents to PGA Tour players to DP World Tour players that want to come over,” Mickelson said.
Asked if he expected an “exodus” of talent from the PGA and DP World tours, Mickelson was confident of more movement.
“Do I think that? No. I know that’s going to happen,” Mickelson said. “When players look at LIV, they’re wanting to be a part of it.
“Everybody here is happy and enjoying what we’re doing, enjoying the team aspect of it and enjoying each other and the camaraderie and enjoying playing golf globally and all the benefits that come with playing this tour.
“So there are a lot of players that see that and want to be a part of it. The question is how many spots are available. There’s a lot more players that want to come than there are spots.”
Merger talks have continued between the three tours since a June announcement of a framework agreement, but there is a December 31 deadline for any deal to be completed.
A PGA Tour Policy Board with a majority of players including Tiger Woods must approve any merger deal.
“I think the merger talks allow for it,” Mickelson said of players jumping to LIV. “I think it allows and kind of opens the door for that.”
One door slammed shut on LIV Golf last week was by the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) board, which rejected LIV Golf’s appeal to have rankings points awarded for its events, citing issues with LIV’s limited player turnover rate and team format issues impacting individual play.
LIV players have been banned from PGA Tour events, limiting their ability to earn ranking points.
Mickelson, however, says there’s more than meets the eye to the rejection.
“I do want to bring to light as to why exactly they are doing what they are doing. It’s not what they are putting out there,” Mickelson said.
“There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes as to the importance of us to the getting points to (equal) the PGA Tour.”
American Brooks Koepka, this year’s PGA Championship winner, and Australian Cameron Smith, last year’s British Open champion, are the only LIV players still among the world rankings top 50, a key cutoff point for entry into major tournaments.
Seeking a major pathway
Mickelson said the majors need to ensure other top LIV players have a path into their events.
“I think the majors need to protect their product, and there’s probably other ways that they can do that by creating slots,” Mickelson said.
“If they want to make sure they have the best fields in golf, they could create vehicles for players on LIV to play in majors where they don’t have to use the OWGR, which would undermine the TV contract and revenue of the PGA Tour if they gave points to LIV.”
Koepka said LIV has plenty of talent that deserves a chance to play in majors.
“I think it’s hard to argue that some of these guys here are not the best players in the world,” Koepka said. “These guys deserve to be in majors that have been in majors.
“Hopefully there’s a pathway for them to at least get into majors because I think there’s quite a few guys out here that deserve to be in those.”
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