Phil Mickelson, Fresh From LIV Golf Series, Stays on Message at U.S. Open

BROOKLINE, Mass. — For a golfer who built a career and a reputation as a player who takes a lot of chances, Phil Mickelson played it as straight as a Ben Hogan 1-iron on Monday.

Speaking to an overflow crowd of reporters at the Country Club, the site of this week’s United States Open, Mickelson stayed on message throughout his 25-minute news conference, reiterating his commitment to the LIV Golf Invitational Series while also showing love for the PGA Tour, which last week suspended him and other tour players who had chosen to play in LIV’s inaugural event last week outside London. Twenty have committed to the series so far.

The United States Golf Association, which runs the U.S. Open, allowed Mickelson and any of the other suspended players to participate in this week’s event.

He acknowledged there were “strong emotions and opinions” among those who opposed his decision to join the LIV Golf series, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. “I respect that,” Mickelson said. “I’m grateful for all that the PGA Tour has given me, but I’m excited about this new opportunity as well.”

Mickelson was asked numerous times about the negative reactions from fans and other PGA Tour players about his decision. He repeated that he had the “utmost respect” for players on the tour and that the friendships he had forged over his professional career would remain intact.

“There are players on the tour that I look up to and respect,” he said. “I respect if they disagree. But at the same time, I feel like I made the right decision.”

The LIV series events are the richest tournaments in golf history — last week’s total purse was $25 million, with a $20 million pot for the individual event and $5 million more to split in the team competition. Charl Schwartzel, 37, finished first in both the individual and team competitions and took home $4.75 million. The last-place finisher at each event is guaranteed $120,000.

LIV Golf will hold its next event in the United States. It begins June 30 outside Portland, Ore., and is one of five U.S. events.

On top of prize money are the appearance fees and signing-on payouts individual players have accepted. Mickelson was paid a reported $200 million to take part in the series, and Dustin Johnson, the highest-ranked player participating so far, was reportedly paid up to $150 million.

Mickelson stepped away from golf to work on personal and family issues in February after apologizing for comments he made in support of the breakaway tour. He returned to competition last week in the LIV series opener — a 54-hole tournament with no cut — and his game appeared rusty. He finished tied for 33rd at 10 over par and said that his putting was as bad as he could remember.

A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series

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A new series. The new Saudi-financed, controversy-trailed LIV Golf series held its first event in June. But what is it? Who is playing it? What’s all the hubbub, and how can you watch it? Here’s what to know:

What is LIV Golf? The series is an upstart professional golf circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Its organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the highest level of pro golf for nearly a century.

Who is playing it? The 48 players in the initial LIV Golf event were not exactly a who’s who of golf, and many of the biggest names in the sport, such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away. But there were big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García.

What is attracting the players? The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history. The first tournament’s total purse was $25 million, and the winner’s share was $4 million. The last-place finisher at each event was guaranteed $120,000. That is on top of the appearance fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts some players have accepted.

How has the PGA Tour responded to the rise of LIV Golf? The PGA Tour signaled months ago that it would take action against any of its players who joined the new tour after it denied them the releases to participate in other events it requires. On June 9, it suspended the 17 PGA Tour members among the LIV Golf players.

How can I watch the new tour? Despite its high-profile golfers and its big-money backing, LIV Golf has not yet secured a broadcast rights agreement in the United States and will be shown on lesser-watched streaming services in much of the world. In the United States, this week’s tournament will be available via live streams on, YouTube and Facebook.

The U.S. Open, which Mickelson is playing for the 31st time, is the only major tournament he has not won, and he has had more than his share of heartbreak, finishing as runner-up six times.

Wearing his signature black outfit but missing sponsorship patches after Callaway, Heineken, KPMG and Workday all dropped him after his comments to the journalist Alan Shipnuck, Mickelson acknowledged the obvious — that the staggering sums he received from LIV Golf made the decision to join much easier.

“It’s been pretty public that I’m suspended along with a bunch of other players,” Mickelson said of the PGA Tour’s decision last week, and added: “I am going to play the LIV events. I am going to play the British Open, but anything other than that would be pure speculation. I don’t know how this is all going to play out.”

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