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Phil Mickelson symbolizes chaotic golf world ahead of PGA Championship defense as Saudi scheme, greed and sports washing cast shadow over Southern Hills

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To individuals who haven’t been paying interest, the 51-yr-old is the oldest major champion in history and has to be heading to Southern Hills in a blaze of glory, protecting his PGA Championship title as certainly one of golfing’s most-loved figures.

However, all that was modified in February – and Lefty hasn’t been publicly seen or heard seeing that.

In advance of this year’s Saudi global, Mickelson launched an explosive assault at the PGA excursion, accusing it of ‘obnoxious greed’ for hogging ‘his’ media rights – and admitted he was exploring options some place else.

There’s plenty to unpack there. But most importantly, this got here amid rumblings of a Saudi-subsidized incredible golf League led by Greg Norman’s LIV Investments, bankrolled by using the general public funding Fund.

Every player within the world’s top a hundred, such as Mickelson, changed into being offered eye-watering sums of cash to channel their very own greed and be part of the breakaway mission.

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After buying a foothold in components 1, boxing, and Newcastle United amongst other things, golf became subsequent at the schedule for the PIF of their ever-developing bid to hide Saudi Arabia’s human rights file via the game.

It was gaining momentum, too. Major champions Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau were among some of the world’s biggest stars thought to be interested – until Mickelson accidentally called the Saudis out himself.

In a conversation leaked by journalist Alan Shipnuck, whose autobiography on the six-time Major-winner is set to expose some hard truths on May 17, Mickelson described the Saudis as ‘scary mother*******’ and admitted he was only negotiating with them to gain leverage on the Tour.

The American apologized and announced an indefinite break, missing the Masters in April for the first time in 28 years, amid ongoing uncertainty over whether he is actually banned by the Tour.

Nevertheless, after that small bump in the road, two-time Open champion Norman announced his plans to press ahead with the Saudi-backed league.

It’s now called the LIV Golf Invitational, an eight-event series that will begin at the Centurion Club, just outside St Albans, on June 9, and boasts the biggest purse in golf history – with plans for a full-blown Super League by 2025.

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A few issues still linger, though. The PGA Tour and DP World Tour have blocked releases for players wishing to compete in the first event, putting most of the field at risk of fines, suspensions, or other sanctions.

The typically-boisterous Norman does not expect the threat of bans to hold up in court, where this battle is destined to end up and promises legal support to any player wishing to take the risk.

Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, and, of course, world no.1080 Robert Garrigus are understood to have requested releases – and Norman and hopes more will join once the legality is clear.

It is Mickelson’s position that sums up the whole thing rather well. He filed for release to play in LIV Golf’s inaugural event and also signed up to defend his PGA Championship title at Southern Hills in the same press release from his manager.

Mystery surrounds whether or not he will play at either event, and that’s sort of what the whole world of professional golf looks like right now. What on earth happens next?

The sport is chock-a-block with made beds not lied in, cake both had and eaten, with Mickelson’s the biggest of them all. That unpacking we mentioned earlier? Let’s have a crack

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Unsavory as it is, accepting a humongous cheque as an independent contractor approaching the twilight years of a career is, at least, understandable. It’s easy to see why a struggling Korn Ferry or Challenge Tour player could be tempted, too.

And while the game’s star attractions like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy show no interest, the tournament in St Albans will be nothing more than a very expensive farce. It could even be a bunch of amateurs playing for $25m if the PGA Tour’s deterrent works.

But as world no.8 Justin Thomas put it recently: if you want to go, please, just go.

Westwood and Garcia have both tried to claim some bizarre form of moral high ground in recent weeks. You can’t have it both ways.

Despite initially admitting his decision is about money in a recent interview, Westwood went on to claim things are improving in Saudi Arabia – where 81 people were executed in March – and that critics are simply scared of change.

He also provided a tidy definition of sports washing by arguing that golf shouldn’t be scrutinized so much because other sports have Saudi funding.

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Garcia, meanwhile, told a rules official he ‘can’t wait to leave this tour’ after getting a dodgy ruling at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Perhaps he is unaware that LIV Golf has hired long-time PGA Tour official Slugger White to oversee their regulations – which will be the same as, erm, the PGA Tour.

Somewhere else, Norman conveyed may be the most surprising protection of Mohammed container Salman’s system to a date when he was as of late gotten some information about the homicide and dismantling of writer Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, purportedly authorized by the Crown Prince, who was has been denied the this.

Norman said: “Look, we’ve all made mistakes, and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”

That’s where we’re at with golf right now and don’t be fooled into thinking the established tours are blameless victims. All of these guys, namely LIV Golf’s ringleaders Mickelson and Norman, will tell you they are just trying to ‘grow the game’.

The revolutionary ideas involved in the LIV Golf Series – 54 holes, shotgun starts, no cut-lines, team elements, and IPL-style franchises – have the power to draw much-needed new eyes to golf. But not like this.

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There is a way to revolutionize golf within its current ecosystem and without the PIF’s money. Yes, it’s about bigger purses and slices of pie for the world’s top ten, but it’s also about improving the product.

The Premier Golf League – a separate scheme, initially backed by Saudi money but not anymore – has been screaming about these ideas for years.

They want to work with the PGA Tour, creating a league with promotion and relegation, taking F1 as inspiration for how to generate seismic interest in an individual sport with creative new ideas.

Golf has deteriorated it’s the PGA Tour’s liability regarding stopping, declining to advance, and opening the entryway for something vile to take responsibility for golf’s future, after Tiger, could look. The DP World Tour in a real sense opened the entryway by authorizing the Saudi Invitational for quite a long time.

Rather than encouraging a kid to pick up a golf club or thinking about how the lower levels of golf’s pyramid can benefit, all the LIV Golf Series wants to grow is the size of millionaire pockets and silence towards Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

We don’t even know who will broadcast the first event and it starts in less than a month. There is a lack of subtlety, thought, and care for golf which makes this scheme even more cynical than a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix or an Anthony Joshua fight at the Diriyah Arena

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None of it is good, but this is worse.

And if you’re being paid to put morals aside, expect to earn your money. Mickelson’s next press conference will no doubt be a tough watch – and it could be at his PGA Championship defense.

As we approach what should be one of the most exciting Majors in years, with Mickelson defending and Woods back competing, the narrative is all a bit grim.

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