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Phil Mickelson Says He Respects Tiger Woods' Opinion Despite Ripping LIV Golfers
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Phil Mickelson Says He Respects Tiger Woods’ Opinion Despite Ripping LIV Golfers

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Phil Mickelson said he “couldn’t be happier” about his switch to LIV Golf despite criticism from longtime rival Tiger Woods heading into the 2022 Open Championship.

Woods explained Wednesday he felt golfers who defected from the PGA Tour had “turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position.”

Mickelson was asked about that remark after shooting an even-par 72 in Thursday’s first round at St. Andrews.

“I certainly respect his opinion,” Mickelson told reporters. “I have a lot of respect for him. I respect his opinion. I think everybody’s going to have strong emotions and opinions about it, and I certainly respect his.”

Mickelson signed a contract with LIV Golf, which is financially backed by Saudi Arabia, worth around $200 million, per Brentley Romine of Golf Channel.

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The new tour features a limited schedule with 54-hole, no-cut tournaments. The 52-year-old six-time major champion stated Wednesday the “experience of those events from a player standpoint is a 10,” and said the lighter workload is a plus.

“I made the right decision for me,” Mickelson said. “And I’m excited about, like I say, having the opportunity to play competitive golf and have it in my life on a more moderate scale to where I can do some things outside of that too. I freed up a lot of other—freed up a lot of time as well.”

It’s clear Lefty has decided to take a more measured stance when discussing his departure for LIV after his initial controversial remarks about Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations.

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What’s uncertain is how the situation will evolve from here. The PGA Tour has banned golfers who took part in a LIV tournament from competing in its events.

The decision is likely to face a legal battle given players’ status as independent contractors, and the U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into whether the PGA Tour violated antitrust laws with its treatment of LIV players.

So far none of golf’s four major tournaments, which are separate entities, have banned LIV golfers from participating on the sport’s biggest stages.

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Meanwhile, the breakaway tour’s roster continues to add star power with Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, and Sergio Garcia among the marquee names playing alongside Mickelson.

As long as the ability to play in the majors isn’t threatened, the number of golfers accepting lucrative contract offers from LIV will likely continue to increase in the months ahead, which could deepen the rivalry between the tours.