DORAL, Fla. – One of the fan favorites at the LIV Golf Team Championship in Miami is heading home early.
Phil Mickelson lost to Cameron Smith on the final hole on Friday to seal the deal for his team’s defeat to the Aussie’s Punch GC in the quarterfinals of the Saudi Arabia-backed series’ $50 million finale, putting to bed a turbulent year for the six-time major champion.
After becoming the oldest major champion in history in 2021 at the PGA Championship, Lefty continued to dominate golf headlines in 2022, but for all the wrong reasons.
First, in February, he said the PGA Tour was obnoxiously greedy, and then he told the Fire Pit Collective’s Alan Shipnuck – who wrote a book on Mickelson – that the Saudis were “scary mother(expletive) to get involved with,” and downplayed the murder of Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi and the Kingdom’s deplorable human rights record because he saw a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.” The ensuing backlash forced Mickelson into a self-imposed four-month hiatus before he returned to the game at LIV’s first event outside London.
From there Mickelson struggled to find form in the 48-player, 54-hole, no cut LIV events, finishing inside the top 20 just twice (in two of his last three events), with finishes of T-33 or worse in his other five starts. He also missed the cut at both the U.S. Open and British Open.
“I’m in the majors for the next three years, so I hadn’t really planned on playing this year and I had to reprogram my mindset to get out here. I didn’t play well starting out,” explained Mickelson. “I’m starting to start to play some pretty good golf, so heading into this offseason, I’m gonna put in a little bit of work and see if I can make a nice run the next couple of years and play a level that I know I can. I’m starting to start play a lot better.”
Eternally an optimist, Mickelson looked to the future after Thursday’s round and praised how far the upstart circuit had come over the last eight months since his incendiary comments.
“I’m pretty surprised at how far LIV has come because there was a lot of uncertainty, like who would play in London. You look at the strength of the league now and you have a lot of really strong players and you have a lot of really strong characters in the game,” said Mickelson. “Whether you love them or hate them, there’s a lot of guys here that people want to see.”
The 52-year-old also couldn’t help but mention a desire for more LIV events to go international next season when the series transitions to the 14-event LIV Golf League, going as far as saying, “We’re having a lot of current tournaments on multiple tours coming to us wanting a LIV event.” Does that mean a bridge could be built to cover the widening gap between LIV and the PGA and DP World tours? Time will tell.
“I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure where all that should go or could go or might go. I think there’s a lot of possibilities and I’m not sure how it’ll play out,” said Mickelson. “I just know that in the next, over the course of the next year, a lot of stuff is going to happen, and things will kind of iron themselves out.”