At LIV Jeddah event last week, Phil Mickelson carried on about his belief that the PGA Tour and LIV Golf are trending in opposite directions. The Tour, he said, is on a downward spiral, while LIV is the future. It’s an opinion, of course, and one that is pretty easy to objectively disprove. But when has that ever stopped Mickelson?
Lefty is incentivized to prop up LIV Golf because the more the upstart league thrives, the better it his for his future finances. However, all the strong-arming in the world cannot make half-truths (at best) the full truth, and a couple of PGA Tour superstars popped back at him this week in the press conferences leading up to the CJ Cup in South Carolina.
“Man, I love Phil, but I don’t know what he’s talking about,” said Jon Rahm, who has been close to Mickelson for a long time. “I really don’t know why he said that. There’s been some changes being made, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going down, right? I truly don’t know why he said that. Don’t know. I really, I really don’t know. I think there’s some great changes being made and great changes for the players on the Tour. I truly don’t know what drove him to say something like that.”
The changes Rahm is referencing are underway. The Tour’s top players have all agreed to play in the same PGA Tour tournaments in the future, and that’s going to start in a big way in 2023 with 17 tournaments (including the four major championships) in which every big-time player that hasn’t already defected to LIV will tee it up.
“I’ve spoke about this at length, and I think the people that have decided to stay here and play these tournaments, they or we haven’t done anything differently than what we’ve always done, right?” said Rory McIlroy on Wednesday. “We’re playing these events, we’re PGA Tour members, we’re sticking to the system that has traditionally been there. The guys that have went over to LIV, they’re the ones that have made the disruption, they’re the ones that have sort of put the golf world in flux right now.
“I guess for them to be talking the way they are, it’s bold and … I think there’s a ton of propaganda being used and all sorts of stuff. I certainly don’t see the PGA Tour trending downward at all. All the talent, most, 95% of the talent is here. You’ve got people like Tom Kim coming through who that’s the future of our game.
“I don’t agree with what Phil said last week. I understand why he said it because of the position he is in, but I don’t think anyone that takes a logical view of the game of golf can agree with what he said.”
McIlroy is literally correct in that 95% of the talent is on the PGA Tour. Currently, 19 of the top 20 players in the Official World Golf Rankings play on the PGA Tour. To be fair to LIV, it currently does not receive OWGR points for its events, and Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann and Dustin Johnson are just outside that top 20, but it’s not certain that they would be inside the top 20 if they were all still on the PGA Tour.
Regardless, McIlroy is correct. Logic and reason — not to mention data — show that Mickelson is incorrect about his assertion at the moment. That could change, of course, but the current gulf between LIV and the PGA Tour is a lot wider than Lefty has insinuated.