Both Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood did their best to dance around questions regarding their interest in a proposed golf league led by Greg Norman ahead of the Saudi International PIF on Wednesday, with Westwood revealing he had signed a nondisclosure agreement on the subject but nevertheless offering some points of view.
Mickelson, Westwood and defending champion Dustin Johnson are among the big names who have reportedly been targeted by LIV Golf Investments, the entity that Norman, the former No. 1 golfer, now runs as CEO. In October, Norman was also appointed commissioner for the new league to be named.
The proposed circuit is causing angst at the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour (formerly European) because playing in the new league would make it problematic for players to compete on the existing circuits. The (London) Telegraph reported on Tuesday that Ian Poulter had been offered between $20 million and $30 million to join.
“I think everyone watches it and sees parts of it that can really help and benefit their situation, their life, their career, and then there are parts that they’re probably concerned about,” said Mickelson, 51, who is participating in the Saudi tournament for the third consecutive year. “I appreciate that there is competition and the leverage has allowed for a much better environment on the PGA Tour, which means we wouldn’t have an incentive program like the PIP ( Player Incentive Program) for top players without this type of competition.
“We wouldn’t have the FedEx Cup money increase. We wouldn’t have the Players Championship increase to $20 million this year without this threat. Having a season-long payout for the top 10 guys on the FedEx Cup roster came in last year for the first time at $10 million, it’s going to double to $20 million, I think, and it wouldn’t be there.”
Mickelson’s reference to the PIP was a new scheme introduced last year to reward players for their social engagement and popularity off the course. A $40 million pot was to be distributed among the top 10 players. Although the PGA Tour did not release the standings, Mickelson himself said he won the honor and his first prize of $8 million.
He also referenced the increase in money from the FedEx Cup bonus pool, with this year’s winner receiving $18 million, up from $15 million. And then there was the regular season payout for the top-ranked spots, an increase from $10 million to $20 million for the top-10.
All of these things, Mickelson said, were enhanced due to Norman’s proposed league (as well as discussions of another circuit called the Premier Golf League), which would offer guaranteed payouts on top of the $20 million weekly purses that every player would do. get paid because there is no cut.
Mickelson, the defending PGA Championship winner and the oldest at 50 to ever win a major tournament, is coming off back-to-back PGA Tour cuts. He finished third in the Saudi tournament two years ago.
He also took the opportunity to question the PGA Tour’s system of requiring releases in order to play conflicting events. The PGA Tour controls a player’s media rights, hence the restrictions. Mickelson and all players on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour had to, in essence, obtain permission from their respective tours to play this week.
“I enjoy the competition, and what I hope is that the most important thing, which are the rights of the media and the way the players have been used to for so long, I hope that will also change thanks to the opportunity to compete,” he said.
Westwood, 48, a 25-time European Tour winner who turned down the opportunity to captain the European Ryder Cup team in 2023, revealed in a pre-tournament media briefing that he had signed an NDA that prevents him from discussing the league. This almost certainly means he received some sort of offer, although others, such as agents who were briefed on the league’s various proposals, have also signed such deals.
“I don’t know if I want to answer questions on that,” he said. “I signed an NDA.”
Pressed to respond generally about the team aspect that has been touted as one of the facets of the Normandy league, Westwood noted that playing 72-hole stroke play events makes him less likely to play. be interested in watching them when not competing.
“The weeks and days I was watching I was looking for the Ryder Cup if I wasn’t there. I would be looking for Match Play. I think the first day at Dell Match Play where you have 32 matches going really is one of the most exciting days of the whole year. I loved watching the World Match Play at Wentworth. I think team golf every once in a while is a good thing. People seem to enjoy watching it. .
“I think the team aspect is exciting. It’s a bit more volatile than week-to-week 72-hole stroke play.
“I think people like to pick teams over individuals once in a while. It’s different, and I think golf should be different. I think it’s pretty similar all over the world, wherever you play they just seem to stick to the 72 holes. ”
Among the various ideas floated for the new league, often referred to as the Super Golf League, are 54-hole uncut events with a team element that would see four-man teams compete for a tag team title each week in more individual competition.
“I think golf needs to move with the times and become more in tune with the times, volatile and impactful from the start,” Westwood said. “Certainly if you do it like the team aspect, there’s more action happening in more different places.”
Mickelson, when asked if he had received an offer to join the new league, said: “I think every player has been contacted. I don’t think there’s a player who hasn’t been.”
He added: “That’s a sweeter way of saying, of directly answering your question. I’m just saying almost every player who is in the top 100, I would say in the world rankings, has been contacted at some point, absolutely.”
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