Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson reportedly characterized representatives of the Saudi government as possibly the deadliest partners imaginable, but he’s still thrilled to support a Saudi-funded alternative golf league to challenge the power of the PGA Tour “dictatorship.”
According to the upcoming book Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar by Alan Shipnuck, Mickelson admitted the developing Saudi Golf League was “sportwashing” to make a repressive regime more palatable.
“They’re scary motherf**krs to get involved with,” Mickelson told Shipnuck, who on Thursday posted an excerpt from book.
So why would Mickelson work with the Saudis?
“Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates,” he told Shipnuck in an interview which occurred in November. “The Tour likes to pretend it’s a democracy, but it’s really a dictatorship. They divide and conquer.”
Michelson said he and other players have paid attorneys to construct the proposed league’s operating agreement. He is unhappy about what he considers the PGA Tour’s greed and its control of players’ media rights, including the fact that players are unable to profit from non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of their on-course moments.
“[The PGA Tour] has been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse,” Mickelson said. ”…And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage.”
Organizers of the Saudi-backed league, which will be part of the Asian Tour, claim they have commitments from 20 players to participate. They intend to announce their plan next month during the PGA’s flagship Players Championship event, per Shipnuck.
The planned new circuit will reportedly be funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, estimated to be worth some $500 billion.
When contacted by ESPN, the PGA refused to comment on Mickelson’s interview.