Phil Mickelson isn’t letting his battle with the Official World Golf Rankings, and the PGA Tour, go.
Mickelson, speaking ahead of LIV Golf’s team championship this week at former President Donald Trump’s golf club in Miami, slammed the OWGR after its decision to deny LIV Golf ranking points earlier this month.
“I do want to bring to light as to why exactly they are doing what they are doing,” Mickelson said. “It’s not what they are putting there on the front page. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes as to the importance of us getting points to [match] the PGA Tour.”
The OWGR announced earlier this month that it wasn’t going to give LIV Golf the ability to earn world ranking points at their tournaments. Those ranking points are largely used to determine who can play in the four major championships each year.
The decision prompted a harsh response from LIV Golf and Bryson DeChambeau, but the OWGR insisted it wasn’t personal. They are “not at war” with the controversial Saudi Arabian-backed league, it was simply a technical decision as LIV Golf tournaments are set up differently than the rest of the sport with their limited fields, three rounds and more.
Mickelson claimed on social media last week that the OWGR was never going to grant LIV Golf points because it’s a “monopoly” and that the PGA Tour was blocking it in order to hit benchmarks in their TV deals. He didn’t provide any specifics to back that up, and both the OWGR and the Tour have denied that claim.
LIV Golf will have the opportunity to reapply for OWGR points in the future, something the OWGR board encouraged it to do. Before that happens, while he may not be happy about it, Mickelson knows the league will need to make changes.
“The OWGR need to obviously make tweaks, but we need to tweak our format to continue to evolve and be more interesting and easier to understand … It’s important that we continue to evolve our product, our presentation,” he said. “This was kind of the idea at the beginning. Like we thought, OK, we’ll have the team championship, we’ll have the individual part. But all of that is flexible and should be evolved so that based on fans’ needs and wants, as well as television and other entities, so it’s easier to understand and becomes more appealing.”
Mickelson: More Tour golfers to jump ship to LIV
While the future of the sport is still up in the air as the proposed partnership between the Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf is sorted out, Mickelson is confident that LIV Golf will have a future next season.
And, perhaps more importantly, he insists that more Tour golfers are ready to make the leap to LIV Golf.
“I know that’s going to happen,” Mickelson told Telegraph Sport’s James Corrigan on Wednesday. “When players look at LIV, they are wanting to be a part of it. Everybody here is happy and enjoying what we are doing and enjoying the team aspect of it and the camaraderie and all the benefits that come with playing this tour. The reality is, I’ve been fielding calls as we all have from players who are free agents to PGA Tour players who want to come over.
“So the question is, how many spots are available? There’s a lot more players that want to come than there are spots.”
Mickelson did not name anyone specifically, so it’s unclear who he’s talking about. He’s also been the loudest advocate for the league since before its inception, for better or worse.
Mickelson’s point may not matter if the partnership gets done, as that’s supposed to unify the sport after a tumultuous two years where players have had to pick a side and stick to it. But the deal is still under investigation and most details regarding how that works are very sparse. It feels like the deal could still fall apart at any minute.
If that’s the case, and LIV Golf members can’t compete elsewhere, the OWGR points decision is going to hurt them eventually when it comes to the major championships. With very few opportunities to earn points, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for LIV Golf members to get into the four biggest tournaments in the sport.
“I think that the majors need to protect their product, and there’s probably other ways that they can do that by creating slots [for LIV Golf members],” Mickelson said Wednesday in Miami. “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.”
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