Phil Mickelson wants to move on, but will golf fans let him?

Phil Mickelson at a LIV Golf event in 2022.

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The next few weeks are going to be weird for Phil Mickelson, and he seems to know it. 

It was this time last year that he spouted off (inaccurately) about PGA Tour media rights during the Saudi International and then was exposed for trying to leverage Saudi investment to alter payment structures on the PGA Tour. The headlines were not hyper-local, as they can be for this niche sport. They went international, selling a lot of books, and ultimately forcing Mickelson into hiding. He spent Masters week in Montana, skiing in the morning and watching the golf in the afternoons. He went hiking in Sedona and passed on the opportunity to defend his PGA Championship title. In June, he returned, in the outskirts of London, wearing just one logo — a silhouette of his leaping self — that generated more buzz

But now, on the verge of the one-year anniversary of that chaos, and the start of his second LIV Golf season, Mickelson doesn’t want to talk about all that. “I’m just putting last year out of my mind and disengaging,” he said in an interview with Bog Harig of Sports Illustrated. “A lot of stuff happened, and I’m refocused on today and starting the year.”

This was Mickelson’s third exclusive interview with Harig in the last nine months. (You can read it all here.) But unlike the last iteration, where Mickelson didn’t seem to say much, this one was filled with tidbits of where Mickelson’s head is at:

– He thinks he can replicate the magic of Kiawah Island and maybe even win two more majors

– He’s down to his playing weight from his college years

– He anticipates a new world ranking system emerging in response to LIV not getting OWGR points

– He thinks there will be some sort of “accountability” taking place in pro golf, whatever that means

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One thing you won’t hear Mickelson talking about is the past. He’s been hesitant to address it in a straightforward way since his world was turned on its head.

Recall how his first press conference went back in June at Centurion Club. He spoke succinctly and carefully. It was decidedly un-Mickelsonian, which is to say he never once spun a yarn about a topic unprovoked. He apologized and felt compelled to say he didn’t “condone human rights violations” four different times. The only time that morning where talking looked easy for him was when he discussed his wife and their months off together, which led to better balance in his life.

The news cycle spins faster than ever these days, and it’s well within Mickelson’s right to want to move on. It’s also well within the public’s right to seek clarity for him when it hasn’t received much of it. (Even the idea of wanting to move on is worthy of its own follow-up.) One of the issues of Mickelson wanting to forge onward is that his value to LIV Golf is built on bringing his once immense fanbase along with him. But at least some of that flock appears bothered by receiving more questions than answers.

You can see it on social media — Mickelson admitted that’s how any animosity reaches him now — where he is often called a sellout or traitor. Mickelson is back tweeting again after a largely quiet 2022, but mostly in an odd way, addressing fashion choices at the Farmers Insurance Open and calling his 45 PGA Tour wins “PGA thingies.” 

The modern Mickelson seems to straddle the line between antagonistic and detached. His emoji usage rate has skyrocketed in the last week. There are shoulder shrugs and thinking faces. He was happy to tweet about McIlroy’s win in Dubai but not of the weirdness between McIlory and Patrick Reed

All of which feels strange because it seems so purposefully non-declarative. Take, for example, this quote from the end of Mickelson’s interview with Harig:

Harig: At times you’ve been outspoken about the issues facing golf and the PGA Tour. Now there are lawsuits. There’s a DOJ investigation. How do you see this playing out?

Mickelson: “Given my emotional investment in professional golf, it’s impossible for me to ignore a lot of things I’m aware of. Knowing there is going to be accountability and it’s not going to have to be from me has been a huge weight off my shoulders. I don’t know why I took it on. It bothered me so much, and it’s because of what I know. I feel this freedom now that kind of lets me let go of that and to focus on what I truly love and what I’m excited about. That is all being dealt with and it doesn’t have to be from me.”

What that accountability looks like in that vague answer, we don’t know. Phil sure seems to know. He spent more than 100 words trying to articulate it. But he lingers these days in nondescript land. He doesn’t want to say much at all about the PGA Tour, but thinks he’ll have the opportunity to play Tour events next year. That’s his take on the pending litigation between the tours, at least. 

This was a man who made a career of picking his spots to speak up and force change, even if he eventually regretted it. Rewind to last year’s Saudi International — the event Mickelson will begin his 2023 at this week — where Mickelson accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed.” If at that time it seemed like Mickelson was speaking his mind, that’s because he was.

And this time around in the Kingdom? Don’t expect a repeat performance.

The author welcomes your comments, concerns, and any other notes at

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine, currently working on a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews. You can read about those travels here and catch his latest thoughts on the Drop Zone Podcast:

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