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Mickelson returns to play in Saudi golf series – for $200m

Mickelson has been on an unforced break from the game following his controversial comments about the Saudi breakaway tournament Reuters/Lee Smith
Mickelson has been on an unforced break from the game following his controversial comments about the Saudi breakaway tournament
  • American says he has ‘renewed spirit’ for game of golf
  • Has been on self-imposed hiatus since February
  • Reportedly getting $200m to play

Phil Mickelson ends his self-imposed break from golf this week to tee it up at the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The six-times major champion has been added to the field for the Saudi-backed league following a four-month hiatus amid a backlash over comments he made about the breakaway tour.

“I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career and is clearly transformative, not just for myself, but ideally for the game and my peers,” Mickelson said in a statement posted on social media.

He is reportedly getting $200 million. Greg Norman, the CEO of the LIV Series, revealed yesterday that Tiger Woods turned down $500 million to be the face of the new tour.

Mickelson’s public image took a hit when the author of an unauthorised biography on the 51-year-old released excerpts from the book in which the American golfer called the Saudis “scary” but said he was willing to look past their human rights records to gain leverage with the PGA Tour.

Mickelson, who has lost several sponsors since his comments surfaced, apologised again yesterday to those he offended, said he has spent time in therapy and also intends to play in golf’s four majors, if permitted.

“I fully realise and respect some may disagree with this decision and have strong opinions and I empathise with that,” Mickelson said.

“I have a renewed spirit and excitement for the game. I am incredibly grateful for the support of my fans, partners, friends, and peers and I hope in time those sentiments, relationships and support continue.”

Golf’s next major is the June 16-19 US Open outside Boston and while Mickelson is an exempt player and filed an entry to compete, the Unites States Golf Association reserves the right to review any player’s situation on a case-by-case basis.

Major draw

Among the other golfers already confirmed for the 48-player LIV event being held June 9-11 at Centurion Club, just outside of London, are former world number ones Dustin Johnson, who today resigned his membership of the PGA Tour, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer as well as 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia.

Mickelson, however, has long been one of the biggest draws in the game, capable of driving up television ratings almost single-handedly when in contention for one of golf’s bigger events, and his presence at Centurion could offer a boost to the first of eight LIV Golf events this year.

Both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour have recently declined all requests from members who had asked for releases to compete at Centurion where $25 million is up for grabs, including $4 million for the winner.

It is unknown whether those competing in the lucrative breakaway circuit’s first event, which is being held at the same time as the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open — where the winner will get $1.57 million from an $8.7 million purse — will face punishment.

Mickelson, a 45-time winner on the PGA Tour, has not played on the US-based circuit since January and last competed in early February at an Asian Tour event in Saudi Arabia.

“Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation,” Norman said in a news release.

“His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the globe cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him.”