PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — If you thought Phil Mickelson had laid his cards on the table when he called the PGA Tour ” obnoxiously greedy,” you ain’t seen nothing yet.
In an interview with Alan Shipnuck of the Fire Pit Collective, author of the forthcoming book ” Phil: The Rip-Roaring(and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” Mickelson didn’t hold back in trashing the PGA Tour and explaining why he’s been engaged in conversations about joining the Saudi Golf League. As Shipnuck put it, he “opened a vein.”
Here are some of the juiciest excerpts.
Of partnering with Saudi Arabia in a much-ballyhooed breakaway Saudi Golf League, Mickelson explained why he would even consider it:
“They’re scary ‘motherf—ers’ to get involved with,” he said. “We know they killed (Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal) Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. 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 (the PGA Tour) been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as (PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan) comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want (the SGL) to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the (PGA) Tour.”
Of his desire to gain possession of media rights:
“They are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of digital content we could be using for our social media feeds. The players need to own all of that. We played those shots, we created those moments, we should be the ones to profit. The Tour doesn’t need that money. They are already sitting on an $800 million cash stockpile. How do you think they’re funding the PIP (Player Impact Program)? Or investing $200 million in the European Tour?
“The Tour is supposed to be a nonprofit that distributes money to charity. How the (hell) is it legal for them to have that much cash on hand? The answer is, it’s not. 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.”
On how he’d like the Tour’s policy structure to be reimagined:
“The Tour likes to pretend it’s a democracy, but it’s really a dictatorship,” Mickelson told Shipnuck. “They divide and conquer. The concerns of the top players are very different from the guys who are lower down on the money list, but there’s a lot more of them. They use the top guys to make their own situation better, but the top guys don’t have a say.”
Mickelson’s idea for governance is, according to Shipnuck, based on the U.S. Congress. The Tour’s vast middle class would be like the House, voting on ideas that would then be rejected or tweaked and ultimately ratified by a much smaller Senate-like body composed of the game’s biggest stars. “That way nothing will get done without the approval of both sides,” Mickelson says.
Mickelson on the likelihood the SGL goes forward:
“I know 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.”
Mickelson is talking a big game, but is he just bluffing about leaving for the SGL and leveraging the threat for as many concessions as possible (PIP, bigger purses, bonus money for playing 15 events so far)? Will the Tour call his bluff?
Only time will tell.