The (strange) angry reaction against Phil Mickelson | Opinion


So Phil Mickelson, at the age of 52, picks a $200 million guaranteed payday to sign with the new LIV league, and gets treated like Aldrich Ames.

Other players have questioned or criticized the move. The media and social networks reacted as if Mickelson’s LIV jump was a personal affront or as if loyalty to the PGA Tour was equivalent to patriotism. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan suspended LIV players, saying it was an “unfortunate week created by some unfortunate decisions.” Hours and hours of comments have been devoted to the topic.

Suddenly Lefty, the most visible (and highest-paid) player to defect to LIV, is the worst thing to happen to golf since a fire hydrant and tree jumped in front of Tiger Woods’ truck.


Over the weekend, Mickelson played at the US Open and shot 11 from 36 holes just days after playing in the inaugural LIV tournament, where he finished 34th. Nothing went right. One of his shots hit a fan. He failed to make the cut. He has had better weeks.

“Mickelson ripped for losing cut at US Open” read the headline in various media outlets (“ripped” was the favorite verb of various media).

Social networks cheered his failure.

“Did someone tell Lefty that there’s actually a cut in (the) tournament?” read an Instagram post, referring to the LIV tournament no-cut policy.

“Looks like LIV might have overpaid for this Mickelson guy,” read another.

“Looking at the state of Mickelson’s game, you can’t blame him for taking the money.”

“Phil Mickelson is ahead of 2 of 15 fans on the field at the US Open.”

If someone is offered $200 million, guaranteed, they should definitely turn their backs because…because…uh, why?

Because you feel a certain loyalty to the PGA Tour? Because he already has a lot of money? Because the money comes from an evil empire?

Control yourself, everyone. Mickelson is one of 50 players who have taken the LIV money and more will follow. This is a turf war, the AFL against the NFL, Apple against Microsoft, Coca-Cola against Pepsi. They are two companies that compete for market share and employees/players. LIV wants a piece of the pro golf pie, just as rival professional football leagues have tried to challenge the NFL for a piece of the action. No longer able to boast of offering the most prize money or the best players (except during the Majors, so far), the PGA Tour is trying to protect its turf.

One of the things that has set the PGA Tour apart in the sports world is that players are paid based on performance: prize money. They can earn a lot more through sponsorships, but even that money is largely determined by tournament performance. This makes tournaments fiercely competitive; creates drama and tension for players and fans. The players play as if they have a lot at stake, and they do. It gives a premium to the competition (unlike the NBA, where there is no urgency).

LIV players are essentially paid a salary, so their life does not depend on performing in tournaments, and the prize money is simply a bonus. “Where is the incentive to go and play well?” says PGA Tour player Rory McIlroy.

On the other hand, the LIV pay model is not dissimilar to the way players are paid in the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS (but not professional tennis, which continues to be built around prize money). metal). No one seems upset about it.

But Lefty and the other LIV golfers are taking dirty money, you cry! Much morality has been thrown into the LIV/PGA Tour showdown over the source of the money because Saudi Arabia is high on the list of countries that abuse human rights. An ESPN writer even brought 9/11 into the fray, noting, “Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.”

ESPN continued: “While McIlroy said it was difficult to separate sports from politics and ‘dirty money from clean money’ in today’s world, he understands why 9/11 survivors and families of victims are upset.”

If sports federations are going to start taking money only from those with clean hands, where does it start and end? The International Olympic Committee has no qualms about doing business with China (host of two Olympic Games in the last 14 years) or Russia (host of the Olympic Games eight years ago).

The NBA does $500 million worth of business in China every year, while taking very sanctimonious positions on internal issues. World Athletics does business with Qatar (host of the 2019 World Championships in Athletics), as does FIFA (host of the World Cup this fall), and that country doesn’t get any human rights points either. You probably have some Nikes in your closet: shoes made in third-world sweatshops.

Mickelson has earned more than $800 million as a PGA Tour player, counting endorsements, prize money, etc. Some, including McIlroy, think that’s a reason to turn down LIV money. Why do you need more? But where do we draw the line in professional sports, where the money is already so outrageous that no contract is big enough to turn heads?

According to Spotrac, there are 100 NFL players who have contracts worth $58 million or more and most of the money is guaranteed, including Deshaun Watson’s $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns. There are 49 NBA players with contracts worth between $100 million and $228 million, and 99 players whose contracts are worth at least $50 million.

Who is going to decide what is too much? Didn’t they pass that threshold a long time ago? All this is too much for one man.

Looking at the situation, Mickelson says, “I understand that it brings up a lot of strong emotions for a lot of people. I respect the way they may or may not feel about it.”

McIlroy is so excited about LIV that he says he used it as motivation to win the Canadian Open and surpass Greg Norman for his 21st career victory. Norman is the CEO of LIV.

“I had additional motivation with what’s happening across the pond,” McIlroy said. “The guy who’s headlining that tour has 20 PGA Tour wins and I was tied with him and wanted to get one before he did.”

Meanwhile, former tour player Brandlee Chamblee tweeted that Mickelson should be removed from the PGA Hall of Fame. After Mickelson’s press conference a few days before the start of the US Open, he told Golfweek: “He is suffering the consequences of a decision he made that some believe was bringing a flamethrower to the PGA Tour. By my count, there were 22 questions and not a single question about being the oldest major champion of all time, not a single question about trying to complete the Grand Slam of his career. It was about his decision to join a league that I think many see as a hostile takeover attempt.”

Who knew that changing employers could encourage such a heated reaction.

Phil Mickelson poses for a photo with a fan during a practice round before the US Open on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Charlie Riedel, Associated Press