Phil Mickelson promises more PGA Tour players will join LIV Golf
When LIV Golf announced its first group of committed players back in May 2022, two-time major champ Dustin Johnson headlined the list. Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood were mentioned, too.
A week later, Phil Mickelson signed on. A couple of weeks after that came Brooks Koepka. Later that summer, Cameron Smith, fresh off an Open Championship victory, and Joaquin Niemann signed on the dotted line.
LIV Golf was stealing stars from the PGA Tour, but that slowed after the first year. Now Year 2 is almost complete, and the future of LIV Golf is slightly more murky given the framework deal between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi PIF. And that was before the recent news of the OWGR’s decision to deny LIV Golf events World Ranking points, which are crucial for the majority of its players to qualify for major championships.
So, will LIV continue to evolve? Mickelson thinks so. The six-time major champ is in Florida for this week’s season-ending LIV Team Championship at Trump National Doral, and during Wednesday’s multi-player press conference Mickelson was asked about some of the latest developments in the golf world. Notably, the OWGR decision, and what LIV should do next.
“As a league that’s trying to grow the game and bring it globally and promote the game throughout the world, as well as bring something different than the old, stodgy format that we’ve had for decades, we just need to focus on what we are doing and make our product as good as possible, as interesting as possible,” Mickelson said. “We need to make tweaks into our program. The OWGR needs to obviously make tweaks but we need to tweak our format to continue to evolve and be more interesting and easier to understand. We have enough on our plate to make our product more and more exciting and appealing that we shouldn’t worry ourselves with what they are doing.”
At for the evolution of LIV, Mickelson said they have lots of ideas internally — “we have to see if they are good ideas,” he said — but the key is talent.
“When you’re a start-up, and we have only been around a year and a half, you look at the quality of players that we have already, and that’s going to continue to improve next year and it’s going to continue to improve the following year,” Mickelson said. “It’s important that we continue to evolve our product, our presentation. This was kind of the idea at the beginning. Like we thought, OK, we’ll have the Team Championship, we’ll have the individual part. But all of that is flexible and should be evolved so that based on fans’ needs and wants, as well as television and other entities, so it’s easier to understand and becomes more appealing.”
Given the OWGR news, and with LIV Golf now looking ahead to its third season after this week’s event, Mickelson was asked if he believes more players will come over from the PGA Tour. Does he think the exodus has stopped, or are more players coming?
“Do I think that?” he said. “No — I know that’s going to happen.”
“When players look at LIV, they are wanting to be a part of it. Everybody here is happy and enjoying what we are doing and enjoying the team aspect of it and enjoying each other and the camaraderie and enjoying playing golf globally and all the benefits that come with playing this tour,” Mickelson continued. “So there’s a lot of players that see that and want to be a part of it. The question is, you know, how many spots are available. There’s a lot more players that want to come than there are spots.”
There’s really no definite answer regarding what happens to LIV Golf going forward. Maybe something, perhaps nothing. Right now, the golf world has way too many question marks.
Asked if he thought the pending merger would affect players coming to LIV — a question that might have been intended to mean it would discourage players — Mickelson twisted his answer the other direction.
“I think the merger talks allow for it,” he said. “I think it allows and kind of opens the door for that.”
With LIV Golf’s season winding down, four players will now face relegation (the lack of guaranteed promotion and relegation of players is one thing that hurt LIV in its attempt for World Ranking points). One of them is James Piot, who was on Mickelson’s HyFlyers GC team. On Wednesday team captains were asked about filling those spots.
“The reality is, I’ve been fielding calls, as we all have, from players that are free agents,” Mickelson said. “To PGA Tour players to DP World Tour players that want to come over. You know, the spot’s probably going to be filled by the time the qualifying tournament is here. … But I think there’s a good chance based on the number of calls that we’ve had that the spot will be filled fairly soon.”