Phil Mickelson has never been far from the surface when it comes to the Saudi Golf League – and the six-time major winner is making waves again.
Days after accusing the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed”, comments have now emerged suggesting Mickelson has been using the threat of a breakaway league for “leverage” over the existing circuit.
In an upcoming unauthorised biography by the journalist and author Alan Shipnuck, he admitted the league is a result of “sportswashing” and described the Saudi government as “scary motherf----rs to get involved with”.
However, he also claimed the prospect of a rival competition gave players a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to change the PGA Tour.
“We know the Saudis killed (journalist Jamal) Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights,” he said.
“They execute people over there for being gay.
“Why would I even consider getting involved with them? Because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape the way the PGA Tour operates.
“As nice a guy as PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan comes across as, unless you have leverage he won't do what's right.”
“The Saudi money has finally given us that leverage,” Mickelson, who also branded the PGA Tour a “dictatorship”, added.
“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 is believed to be considering an offer of more than $100 million to join the league, with other stars – mostly veterans approaching the twilight of their careers – also mulling over a variety of eight- and nine-figure sums in exchange for jumping ship.
Lee Westwood said he had signed a non-disclosure agreement over his involvement, while Adam Scott claimed he was “sworn to secrecy”.
Tour pro Kramer Hickok revealed he knew of 17 players who had signed up, while earlier this week Shipnuck claimed a formal unveiling of the new league would be held during the week of the Players Championship in early March.
However, the vast majority of the current top 10, Dustin Johnson excluded, have made it clear they will not abandon the PGA Tour.
Rory McIlroy quipped the circuit is a “not so super league”, while others, including Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa, world No. 1 and 2 respectively, have been similarly dismissive.
Players face the prospect of being ostracised from the game if they take up the Saudi offer, with the promise of lifetime bans from the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Ryder Cup.