The (strange) angry reaction to Phil Mickelson | Opinion


So Phil Mickelson, at the age of 52, chooses a guaranteed salary of $200 million to sign with new league LIV – and he’s treated like Aldrich Ames.

Other players have questioned or criticized this decision. The media and social media reacted as if Mickelson’s LIV jump was a personal affront or as if loyalty to the PGA Tour was akin to patriotism. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suspended LIV players and said it was an “unfortunate week that was created by unfortunate decisions”. Hours and hours of commentary have been poured into the subject.


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 a tree blew up in front of Tiger Woods’ SUV.

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

“Mickelson ripped for lack of cut at US Open,” read the headline of several news outlets (“ripped” was several outlets’ favorite verb).

Social networks applauded his flop.

“Did anyone tell Lefty that there was actually a cut in (the) tournament?” read an Instagram post, referencing the LIV tournaments no-cut policy.

“Looks like LIV may have overpaid for that Mickelson guy,” read another.

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

“Phil Mickelson is ahead of 2 of 15 amateurs on the court at the US Open.”

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

Because he feels some loyalty to the PGA Tour? Because he already has plenty of money? Because the money comes from an evil empire?

Relax, everyone. Mickelson is one of about 50 players who took the money from LIV and more will follow. It’s a turf war, AFL versus NFL, Apple versus Microsoft, Coke versus Pepsi. These are two companies competing for market share and employees/players. LIV wants a piece of the pro golf pie, just as rival pro football leagues have tried to challenge the NFL for a slice of the action. The PGA Tour, which can no longer boast of offering the most prize money or the best players (except during the majors, so far), is trying to protect its territory.

One of the things that sets the PGA Tour apart in the sports world is that players’ salaries are dependent on performance – the prize money. They can earn a lot more from endorsements, but even that money is largely determined by tournament performance. This makes tournaments extremely competitive; it creates drama and tension for players and fans. Players play as if they have a lot at stake, which they do. It favors competition (unlike the NBA, where there is no rush).

LIV players are basically paid a salary, so their lives don’t depend on their performance in tournaments, and the cash prizes are just a bonus. “Where’s the incentive to go play well?” says PGA Tour player Rory McIlroy.

On the other hand, the LIV compensation model is no different from how players are paid in the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS (but not professional tennis, which continues to grow). be built around cash prizes). Nobody seems mad about it.

But Lefty and the other LIV golfers take dirty money, you cry! A lot of moralizing was thrown into the LIV/PGA Tour showdown over the source of the money because Saudi Arabia tops the list of countries that violate human rights. An ESPN writer even brought 9/11 into the fray and noted, “Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.”

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

If sports federations start taking money only from those with clean hands, where does it start and where does it end? The International Olympic Committee does not hesitate to do business with China (host of two Olympics in the past 14 years) or Russia (host of the Olympics eight years ago).

The NBA does $500 million worth of business in China each year while taking highly judgmental stances on national 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 also does not get points for the rights of the man.

Mickelson has earned over $800 million as a PGA Tour player, counting endorsements, prize money, and more. Some, including McIlroy, believe this is a reason to turn down LIV money. Why does he need more? But where do you draw the line in professional sports, where the money is already so outrageous that no contract is big enough to raise eyebrows anymore.

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 with contracts worth at least $50 million.

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

Looking at the situation, Mickelson says, “I understand that this brings up a lot of strong emotions in a lot of people. I respect how 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 with career win No. 21. Norman is the CEO of LIV.

“I got extra motivation with what’s happening across the pond,” McIlroy said. “The guy running this tour has 20 PGA Tour wins and I was tied with him and wanted to get one ahead of him.”

Meanwhile, former Tour player Brandlee Chamblee tweeted that Mickelson should be removed from the PGA Hall of Fame. Following 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 and some believe he was carrying a flamethrower. at 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 a career Grand Slam. It was about his decision to join a league that I think many view as a hostile takeover attempt.

Who knew changing employers could provoke such a violent reaction.

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

Charlie Riedel, Associated Press