Sunday, June 16, 2024

Mickelson Caps Disastrous U.S. Open, His First Stateside Tournament Since Jumping To Saudi-Backed LIV Golf

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Phil Mickelson finished his first two rounds of play in this week’s U.S. Open in 144th place out of the 156-golfer field, mightily underwhelming expectations in his first tournament in the United States following his decision to defect from the PGA Tour and join the controversial LIV Golf series financed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund.

Phil Mickelson, pictured here during his Friday round, had a rough U.S. Open.

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Key Facts

Mickelson finished play Friday 11 strokes over par, shooting an 8-over 78 Thursday and a 3-over 73 Friday, leaving him eight strokes over play Friday, at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Mickelson, who celebrated his 52nd birthday Thursday, will easily miss the tournament’s cut, finished nine strokes behind the projected cut line.

Perhaps his most notable moment on the course came on the sixth hole Thursday, when he stuck it to 12 feet but took four putts to find the hole for a double bogey in an ugly viral sequence.

Off the course, Mickelson still predictably stoked controversy: During a Monday press conference, he addressed the criticisms of a 9/11 victims family group that condemned him and other golfers who joined the LIV tour for taking money from the Saudi government, saying he offered his “deepest empathy” to 9/11 victims’ families, but he dodged questions about “sportswashing” the Saudi government’s record of human rights abuses.

Key Background
The Farmers Insurance Open in January was Mickelson’s last tournament in the U.S. In February. Mickelson faced intense backlash when he defended his ties to LIV Golf by saying he understood the Saudi government murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its history of human rights abuses, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join a new golf league. Several long-time sponsors, including KPMG and Workday, dropped Mickelson in the aftermath. Mickelson was the second-highest paid golfer in the world last year, by Forbes’ calculations, earning $45.2 million, mostly off of $42 million in endorsements. Mickelson made his move to LIV Golf official earlier this month and played in its first-ever tournament last week. The PGA Tour suspended Mickelson and other golfers who defected from playing in PGA Tour events. Mickelson is second in all-time earnings on the PGA Tour with $95 million. The Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine reported Mickelson’s contract with LIV Golf was worth about $200 million.

Chief Critic
World No. 3 Rory McIlroy said this week he was “disappointed” in Mickelson for how he handled his move to LIV Golf and added the defectors “have made their bed” and must “lie in it.” McIlroy, who has been the most outspoken critic of the upstart golf series thus far, is tied for second at the U.S. Open at three strokes under par.

What To Watch For
Whether Mickelson and other LIV Golf players will continue to be allowed to play in the U.S. Open or other future majors. Mike Whan, head of the U.S. Open’s governing body, said Wednesday he could “foresee a day” where LIV Golf players are barred from the tournament in the future. The three other majors have yet to make an announcement on the issue, but the Masters’ guarantee of lifetime qualification for former winners like Mickelson is unlikely to change.

Further Reading
‘They’ve Made Their Bed’: McIlroy Continues Crusade Against LIV Golf (Forbes)

Trump, Saudis Join Forces To Stick It To The PGA (Forbes)

These Golf Sponsors Have—And Haven’t—Dropped Saudi-Backed LIV Players (Forbes)

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