DORAL, Fla. — Tensions between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour have cooled, but the doorway between the two tours is apparently still open.
Phil Mickelson, at the center of so much of the LIV Golf drama over the last 18 months, noted on Wednesday that he was getting calls from players ranging from “free agents to PGA Tour players to DP World Tour players that want to come over” in the coming months. On Friday, speaking to two reporters after his match-play round, he went even further, framing player movement as an all-but-done deal.
“I’m excited about … ” Mickelson paused, weighed his words, smiled, and continued — ”about who’s coming for next year. Over time, we’ll just keep getting better and better, and getting better players. That’s the game plan and I love the commitment and I love being a part of it.”
Asked to clarify the meaning behind the smile, Mickelson demurred. “I’m not going there,” he said. “I know that just like [PGA Tour board member] Jimmy Dunne said in Congress, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”
During congressional testimony earlier this summer, Dunne had said that if LIV Golf claimed five PGA Tour players a year, “in five years, they can gut us.” The framework agreement between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund, LIV’s financial backer, was intended to blunt that threat … but may not have removed it entirely.
“They have an unlimited horizon and an unlimited amount of money,” Dunne said in his testimony. “It isn’t like the product is better. It’s just that there’s a lot more money that will make people move.”
Mickelson is not the only one in the LIV tent to suggest this week that new blood is coming. “Personally myself, I’m speaking to numerous players who want to come on with LIV,” CEO Greg Norman said on Thursday to a small group of reporters. “They know there’s an opportunity to come on with LIV, they didn’t have the chance in the beginning … Our players are doing a great job of articulating exactly how great our platform is and how fun it is out here. So we’re getting a lot of expressions of interest from individuals.”
“There’s open spots. There’s interest. There’s people calling, texting, even me, and I don’t have any pull,” Bubba Watson said Thursday. “So they are asking for help to try to get in the league.”
Only time — and player announcements — will tell if Mickelson and the others are speaking truth or just shoveling hype. LIV enters what promises to be a significant offseason after its team championships conclude this weekend. There aren’t many spots available in the 12-team, 48-player league for the next season, perhaps as few as four.
LIV is yet to announce its specific schedule for next year, but league officials have pledged that an announcement is coming in the next few weeks.
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