Greg Norman, the face of the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, signed 51-year-old Phil Mickelson on Monday. The New York Post reports that LIV Golf announced 42 of the 48 players in the field for its first tournament, which will take place June 9-11 outside of London. The biggest name on the list was Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 13 golfer. Mickelson will be competing for the first time since playing in the Saudi International on February 6.
Johnson’s involvement was unexpected, given his outspoken support for the PGA Tour. According to The Telegraph from the United Kingdom, Johnson was offered $125 million to join LIV Golf’s series of events. It’s unclear what Mickelson was paid in exchange for his participation, but sources told The Post that talks between LIV Golf and Mickelson’s team were ongoing and that LIV thought Mickelson was on board last week. That agreement was ultimately reached on Monday. Mickelson had been dealing with backlash from comments he made to a writer (in a conversation Mickelson claimed was private) that blasted both the PGA Tour and the Saudi endeavor.
Mickelson has been in a condition of “self-exile” since his words were made public and he issued a public apology. He also claimed that he was going to spend some time away from the game. He last competed on the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. Since then, he’s missed the Masters, which he’s won three times and considers his favorite event, as well as last month’s PGA Championship, where he was set to defend the title he won in 2021.
It’s unknown if Mickelson will compete in the U.S. Open next week in Brookline, Massachusetts, but given his recent track record, it seems improbable. Mickelson has officially registered for the tournament, which is the only major title he has yet to win and the only major he needs to complete a career Grand Slam. With PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan taking a tough stance against players who compete in Saudi events, citing consequences that might include expulsion from the tour, it appears that Mickelson and the other players who have committed to compete in next week’s LIV event have picked sides.
The Norman-led tour is organized by LIV Golf Investments, which is supported by the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). This has been a contentious issue in the sport, generating much criticism. In discussing Mickelson’s participation in the Saudi-backed league, Norman stated, “Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation. 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.”