Phil Mickelson has not played since February after comments made about breakaway tour; opening LIV Golf Invitational starts this week at London's Centurion Club; Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace reportedly resign from PGA Tour
Tuesday 7 June 2022 11:37, UK
Phil Mickelson says he is returning to golf with a "renewed spirit and excitement" as he confirmed he will play in the first LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament at Centurion Club this week - and future major championships.
Mickelson has been linked to LIV Golf for months but began a self-imposed hiatus from the sport in February - even skipping his title defence at the PGA Championship - amid backlash over comments he made about the breakaway tour.
The 51-year-old's public image took a hit when the author of an unauthorised biography said the American golfer told him he was willing to look past Saudi Arabia's human rights record to gain economic leverage over the PGA Tour.
"I am thrilled to begin with LIV Golf and I appreciate everyone involved. I also intend to play the majors"
Mickelson said in a statement posted on Twitter: "First and foremost, I want to again apologise to the many people I offended and hurt with my comments a few months ago.
"I have made mistakes in my career in some of the things I have said and done. Taking time away and self-reflecting has been very humbling.
"I needed to start prioritising the people that I love the most and work on becoming a better version of myself.
"I have spent this time with Amy and loved ones. I have been engaged and intentional in continued therapy and feel healthy and much more at peace.
"I realise I still have a long way to go, but I am embracing the work ahead."
Among the other golfers already confirmed for the 48-player event being held June 9-11 at Centurion Club are former world No 1 Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen.
Late on Monday night, it was reported the manager for Garcia, Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Branden Grace said they had resigned from the PGA Tour, joining Kevin Na who made the decision over the weekend.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan previously told tour members that players who elect to participate in the LIV league face disciplinary action.
Mickelson went on to explain some of the reasons why he decided to back the LIV series.
He continued: "I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career and is clearly transformative, not just for myself, but ideally for the game and my peers.
"I also love the progressive format and think it will be exciting for fans. Just as importantly, it will provide balance, allowing me to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course. I am incredibly grateful for what this game and the PGA Tour has given me.
"I would like to think that I have given back as well but now I am excited about this new opportunity."
Mickelson added: "I am thrilled to begin with LIV Golf and I appreciate everyone involved. I also intend to play the majors.
"I fully realise and respect some may disagree with this decision and have strong opinions and I empathise with that. I have a renewed spirit and excitement for the game.
"I am incredibly grateful for the support of my fans, partners, friends and peers and I hope in time those sentiments, relationships and support continue."
Greg Norman, chief executive and commissioner of LIV Golf, said: "Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation.
"His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the globe cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him.
"He strengthens an exciting field for London where we're proud to launch a new era for golf."
Rickie Fowler says he has received an offer from LIV Golf but hasn't decided whether to compete.
"To be straightforward with you guys, I haven't necessarily made a decision one way or the other. I've mentioned in the past, do I currently think that the PGA Tour is the best place to play? I do. Do I think it can be better? Yes.
"So I think it's an interesting position. Obviously, there's the LIV and Premier [Golf League], as well. These tours or leagues or whatever-however you want to classify or call them, they wouldn't really be coming up if they didn't see that there was more opportunity out there.
"I've always looked at competition being a good thing. It's the driving force of our game. You know, being able to have games with guys at home, that's how I always grew up is competing. I think competition ultimately makes people better, whether it's business sport.
"So it's interesting, that's for sure."
"It’s no surprise. Even with the comments he made earlier this year, I think he was always intent to go and play in this series and explore new options and new opportunities. This was always his plan"
Analysis from Sky Sports' commentator Rich Beem...
"Nobody really knows what the repercussions are going to be from the PGA Tour, and I think the PGA Tour is waiting basically until the shotgun starts on Friday. Once that happens then [players] have actively participated in the LIV series. Now the PGA Tour can finally dole out those sanctions and those penalties.
"I'm not exactly sure what those are going to be. I would expect them to be fairly swift and fairly harsh.
"As far as the USG and the R&A, now that's a big question. I think if they don't somewhat follow suit and possibly, I don't want to say ban the players because they are both 'Opens', so they are allowing everyone to play.
"If they don't set a precedent and say we are looking for the best players in the world and we are trying to dole out players that are actively on tours that we recognise, then they've got to do something in order to steer players away because I know there are a couple of young players, that have just turned professional, that are joining the LIV Series in order to establish themselves in the professional game and try to make money while they are doing it.
"It's a place to play. That's fine and dandy but unless they are part of a tour that is known and sanctioned around the world, they've got to try and keep these players from trying to go over there and taking the money from these leagues.
"So, it will be interesting to see what kind of wording they come up with."
Analysis from Sky Sports' Jamie Weir...
"Jay Monahan is very confident [the PGA] has the legal framework in place to be able to not welcome players back on the PGA Tour but Greg Norman on the other hand is clear they don't, so it will all almost certainly end up in court.
"The PGA Tour and DP World Tour are completely separate from all four majors. They are all individually run. Augusta National run The Masters, the USGA run next week's US Open, the PGA of America run the PGA Championship and of course the R&A run The Open. They've all kept their powder pretty dry on what happens to those players if they decide to play in the Saudi series, whether they're welcome at the majors.
"Next week is the US Open. Phil Mickelson and the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen - there are I think 12 players in the field at Centurion who are all in the field for the US Open.
"As things stand, they're currently welcome at Brookline - they haven't been banned yet and I would be very surprised if they were at this late stage.
"I would imagine there are a lot of players looking to see how this first event goes. They don't want to dip their toe in the water just yet. They want the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen to be the sacrificial guinea pigs and if it's a hit, they'll be involved in the next one which will be in Portland, Oregon which is just a few weeks away.
"It's an extraordinary story in golf for the last few months and it's the gift that keeps on giving. It's been farcical at times."
The Centurion tournament - which boasts a total prize fund of £20.2 million with £4 million to the winner - is the first of eight LIV Golf events scheduled for this year with plans to expand to 14 in the coming years.
The competitions are to be played over 54 holes rather than the standard 72 with groups teeing off simultaneously on different holes in a 'shotgun' start.
Norman admits he was "surprised" by Kevin Na's decision to resign from the PGA Tour in order to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
The PGA Tour and DP World Tour have refused to grant players the required releases to contest the £20m event, with Norman vowing to "defend, reimburse and represent" any players sanctioned if they play regardless.
The scale of any sanctions has not been revealed, but Na said he anticipated facing "disciplinary proceedings and legal action" if he had remained a PGA Tour member.
"I'm a bit surprised, actually," Norman said in quotes released to the PA news agency. "The players don't have to resign from the Tour. That was Kevin's decision for whatever reason he wanted to make it.
"I respect the man for making a bold decision. I respect the person for wanting to come on board with us, because he knows he has a great opportunity with LIV. I'll applaud him for it, but he didn't have to, from our behalf, because LIV would be there (for him)."
Rory McIlroy says the field for the opening LIV Golf Invitational Series event "is nothing to jump and down about" compared to line-ups on the PGA Tour.
The four-time major winner said: "When I turned pro, I was playing for money. All I wanted to do was get my tour card and make a living playing golf. You need a job and you need to make money to buy yourself a house.
"Do I play golf for money now? No. My situation has changed over the years. But when I started playing the game professionally, yeah, money was at the top of the list.
"Some guys are in a position where they are not guaranteed a job next year. It's hard to stay in the top 125, especially when you're in your 40s and maybe don't hit the ball as far as you've used to. As we've seen, it's a young man's game nowadays.
"So if another entity comes along and says, 'we'll guarantee you this amount for three years', plus you're playing for a ton more prize money, you're playing fewer events and you can spend more time with your family it's very appealing to some of those guys that are in that position.
"Again, I'm not in that position, and it's not something that I would do. But you have to try to put yourself in other people's shoes and see where they are coming from."
Matt Fitzpatrick has insisted his future remains with the PGA, but he would have to re-evaluate if the LIV Series became the main tour.
"Tiger made a great point at the PGA the other day in his press conference. He's there to create legacies and to win tournaments and to win majors, and that's kind of - that's definitely where I am," said Fitzpatrick.
"And it was interesting, it was kind of, you know, I'll be honest, some tournaments where I'm maybe not necessarily in it, and I can't win, then I do think, oh, you know, well, at least on the bright side I've made this much this week after the tournament's over.
"I came away from the US PGA and literally couldn't care less about how much I made that week. I was just gutted that I didn't win. I had a chance and I didn't take it, and that kind of said a lot to myself about myself. That's all I'm bothered about out here.
"You want to have records. I want to win tournaments, and for me, that's why for now, the sort of LIV Golf doesn't interest me."
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland