Phil Mickelson makes his return to the golf course this week after a four-month hiatus. The six-time major champion is competing in the first tournament in the new LIV Golf Invitational Series, a controversial Saudi Arabia-funded tour.
“I’m really looking forward to the start of LIV Golf,” 51-year-old Mickelson wrote in a comprehensive statement on Monday. Twitter† “I know and respect that some people do not agree with my choice and have strong opinions about it. But I feel a new enthusiasm for my sport.”
LIV Golf has been causing a lot of discussion and separation in the golf world for months. The new tour is being financed by Public Investment Fund, a Saudi government investment company that is said to have approximately 560 billion euros in assets.
LIV Golf therefore has a lot of money to convince golfers to participate in its events. In the first tournament – which will be held from Thursday to Saturday at the Centurion Club near London – 25 million dollars (converted 23.3 million euros) is ready for the 48 participants. That is the largest prize pool in professional golf history.
The U.S. PGA Tour is not allowing its players to play with the competing organization and is threatening to ban golfers from its tournaments forever if they switch.
However, LIV Golf announced 42 names for its first tournament last week. American Dustin Johnson was the most famous player on the list. According to the former number one in the world The Telegraph some 125 million dollars (117 million euros) have been offered to join LIV Golf.
Former Australian golfer Greg Norman (center) is the face of LIV Golf.
Mickelson apologizes again
Mickelson was enthusiastic about LIV Golf from the start. The American criticized the “greed” of the PGA Tour and expressed his support for a new tour.
It therefore seemed a certainty that ‘Lefty’ would compete in the first tournament in England, until he received much criticism in February for an interview with journalist Alan Shipnuck, who wrote his (unauthorized) biography this year.
“They’re scary bastards,” Mickelson said in conversation with Shipnuck about Saudi Arabia. “We know they killed Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and they have a very bad record on human rights. Still, I see this new tour as a one-time opportunity to reshape the PGA Tour.”
Mickelson soon apologized for the interview. Moreover, he decided not to play tournaments for a while. In April, he skipped the Masters in Augusta for the first time since 1994, the major he won three times. Last month he did not participate in the PGA Championship as the defending champion.
Mickelson apologized again on Monday for his statements of four months ago. “I’ve been trying to become a better person for the past few months. I’ve had therapy and feel much healthier and more relaxed. I’m now ready to get back into the sport I love, but after 32 year it’s time for a fresh start.”