1 At one point we were led to believe that the Saudi Golf League had its 20 stars all signed up and that they were due to be unveiled on the week of The Players in early March. Then journalist Alan Shipnuck, who is writing a biography on Phil Mickelson, released the left-hander’s thoughts on the Saudis and it was as incendiary as golf could be.
“They’re scary motherf***ers to get involved with,” Mickelson said. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.”
Mickelson said his comments were off the record, now they were very much out in the open and he would release a 530-word statement finishing with the news that he would be taking ‘some time away’. Which could mean that he’s been handed a ban by the PGA Tour or not. Either way the Saudi League has hit the buffers with fellow big guns Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau very quick to jump ship and pledge their allegiances to the PGA Tour.
2 A lot of what Mickelson does is based around money and his week has gone from bad to worse with the news that he has now split with his long-time sponsor KPMG. He had been sponsored by them since 2008 but things quickly came to a head in a pretty curt statement.
“KPMG U.S. and Phil Mickelson have mutually agreed to end our sponsorship effective immediately. We wish him the best.”
Mickelson tried a bit harder to paper over the cracks in his statement: “The last thing I would ever want to do is compromise them or their business in any way," he said of his sponsors. “I believe in these people and companies and will always be here for them with or without a contract.”
Heineken Light then reportedly pulled the plug on his Amstel Light deal, to be followed by Workday who also chose to drop him.
Then came a whisper that Callaway might also follow suit – "We have agreed to pause our partnership and will re-evaluate our ongoing relationship at a later date," a company spokesman told Golf Digest.
3 Things can change quickly but you do wonder how Mickelson is going to end up as a Ryder Cup captain. Before all of this he always looked like being the one to skipper the Americans at Bethpage in 2025, Ian Poulter was the likely Euro captain, but now that all looks a long way off. His fellow players have now turned on him and, despite his stance of doing all this for the greater good of the Tour, nobody is really buying that. Mickelson might have played on a lot of losing teams but he was still a major heartbeat of any American effort and his vice-captaincy at Whistling Straits was said to be a big factor in helping to knit the Americans together. Now the current PGA champ might never get the big job.