The great white shark has caught its biggest fish.
Greg Norman, the frontman of the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, landed Phil Mickelson, 51, on Monday, The Post has learned exclusively.
Last week, LIV Golf announced 42 of the 48 players on the course for its first event, June 9-11 outside London. World number 13 Dustin Johnson was the biggest name on the list. Now, the event will also feature Mickelson, who will take part in a tournament for the first time since February 6, when he took part in the Saudi international.
Johnson’s participation came as a surprise given that he had publicly supported the PGA Tour in February. But a UK report in The Telegraph said Johnson had been offered around $125 million by LIV Golf to join its tournament series.
It’s unclear who Mickelson was offered to join, but sources told the Post that negotiations between LIV Golf and Mickelson’s camp were ongoing and there was a moment last week when LIV believed that Mickelson was on board. This negotiation was finally completed on Monday.
“Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation,” said Norman. “His contributions to the sport and his connection to fans around the world cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him. He reinforces an exciting area for London where we are proud to launch a new era for golf.
A complication for Mickelson was the public fallout from comments he made to a writer (in a conversation Mickelson claimed was private) that tore both the PGA Tour and the Saudi business apart.
Since his comments were published, Mickelson has issued a public apology and said he will walk away from the game and is in a state of self-exile. He last played at a PGA Tour event in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Since then, the six-time major championship winner has skipped the Masters, which he has won three times and calls his favorite event, and last month’s PGA Championship, where he was set to defend the title he won in 2021.
It’s unclear if Mickelson will play the US Open next week in Brookline, Mass., but that seems highly unlikely given the pattern of the past few months. The US Open, for which Mickelson is officially registered, is the only major championship he has not won, the only major tournament he misses to complete a career Grand Slam and the tournament he covets the most.
With PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan taking a hardline stance on players playing in Saudi events, threatening penalties that could include banishment from playing on the PGA Tour, it appears Mickelson and other players who have committed to play next week’s LIV event have chosen sides.
The Norman-led tour is run by LIV Golf Investments, which is backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is essentially the financial arm of the Saudi government. It’s been a hot topic in the sport, drawing a lot of criticism.
In his comments to Alan Shipnuck, who wrote an unauthorized biography on Mickelson, Mickelson called the Saudis “scary mothers to get involved with”, adding: “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible human rights record. They execute people there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a unique opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour works.
“They were able to get by with manipulative, coercive and heavy-handed tactics because we players had no recourse. Such a nice guy [Monahan] seems like, unless you have leverage, it won’t do the right thing. And Saudi money finally gave us that leverage. I’m not even sure I want [the SGL] succeed, but the mere thought of it allows us to get things done with the [PGA] Round.”
Prior to those comments being published, Mickelson was quoted in the filing by Golf Digest’s John Huggan in February as calling the PGA Tour “abhorrent greed” in its quest to push the Tour to take better financial care of its players, especially the stars. who lead the tour.
Mickelson called the PGA Tour the guardian of “about $20 billion” in media assets and “hundreds of millions of digital moments” that rightfully belong to the players.
“I don’t know where things are going, but I know I will be criticized,” Mickelson said in the Golf Digest interview. “Media rights are only a small fraction of everything else. And it was the Tour’s heinous greed that really opened the door to opportunities elsewhere.
Now we know that “elsewhere” is for Mickelson.