Phil Mickelson joins LIV Tour after months of controversy

The Great White Shark has caught his biggest fish.

Greg Norman, the front man for the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, on Monday landed 51-year-old Phil Mickelson, The Post has learned exclusively.

Last week, LIV Golf announced 42 of the 48 players in the field for its first event, June 9-11 outside of London. World No. 13 Dustin Johnson was the biggest name on the list. Now the event will also feature Mickelson, who’ll be playing a tournament for the first time since Feb. 6 when he competed in the Saudi International.

Johnson’s participation came as a surprise considering he’d publicly backed the PGA Tour in February. But a report out of the United Kingdom in The Telegraph, said Johnson was offered about $125 million by LIV Golf to join its series of tournaments.

It’s unknown what Mickelson was offered to join, but sources told The Post that negotiations between LIV Golf and Mickelson’s camp had been ongoing and there was a point last week that LIV believed Mickelson was on board. That negotiation was finally completed Monday.

“Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation, » Norman said. “His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the globe cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him. He strengthens an exciting field for London where we’re proud to launch a new era for golf.”

A complication for Mickelson has been the public fallout from comments he made to a writer (in a conversation Mickelson asserted was private) that ripped both the PGA Tour and the Saudi venture.

Phil Mickelson is joining the Saudi-backed LIV Tour.
Phil Mickelson is joining the Saudi-backed LIV Tour.
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Since his comments were published, Mickelson issued a public apology and stated that he was going to take some time away from the game and has been in a state of self-exile. He last played a PGA Tour event in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Since then, the six-time major championship winner has skipped the Masters, which he’s won three times and calls his favorite event, and last month’s PGA Championship, at which was slated to defend the title he won in 2021.

It’s unclear whether Mickelson will play in the US Open next week at Brookline, Mass., but it seems highly unlikely given the pattern of the past few months. The US Open, for which Mickelson is officially registered, is the only major championship he has not won, the only major missing for him to complete a career Grand Slam and the tournament he covets most.

With PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan having taken a hardline stance on players who play in the Saudi events, threatening sanctions that could include banishment from playing on the PGA Tour, it seems Mickelson and the other players who’ve committed to playing next week’s LIV event have chosen sides.

The Norman-led tour is run by LIV Golf Investments, which is backed by Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is essentially the financial arm of the Saudi Arabian government. This has been a hot-button topic in the sport, drawing much criticism.

In his comments to Alan Shipnuck, who wrote an unauthorized biography on Mickelson, Mickelson called the Saudis “scary motherf—ers to get involved with,” adding, “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 [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] Round. »

Phil Mickelson (left) and Dustin Johnson in 2014.
Phil Mickelson (left) and Dustin Johnson in 2014.
Getty Images

Prior to those published comments, Mickelson was quoted on the record by John Huggan of Golf Digest in February, calling out the PGA Tour for “obnoxious greed » in his quest to push the tour to take better financial care of its players, particularly the stars who drive the tour.

Mickelson called out the PGA Tour as the gatekeepers of “roughly $20 billion” in media assets and “hundreds of millions of digital moments” that rightfully belong to the players.

“I don’t know where things are headed, but I know I will be criticized,” Mickelson said in the Golf Digest interview. “The media rights are but a small fraction of everything else. And it is the Tour’s obnoxious greed that has really opened the door for opportunities elsewhere.”

Now we know were “elsewhere » is for Mickelson.

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