Golf

His Delivery May Have Been Wrong, But Phil Mickelson’s Message Was Right

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The Hall of Famer long believed star players should play together more and be paid more, and that’s all about to happen on the PGA Tour.

ATLANTA – Phil Mickelson’s last appearance at East Lake for the Tour Championship was four years ago, and given how things have transpired, he will probably never be back.

But he was on plenty of minds this week at the season-ending Tour Championship, especially in light of what went down prior to the tournament, when commissioner Jay Monahan announced some sweeping changes that will see a significant increases in prize money going forward along with the top players in the game coming together more often.

Sound familiar?

While many of the words that caused Mickelson considerable grief back in February were viewed as harsh—and caused him to go into exile for four months—there is a sense that his underlying message was heard.

Vindication is likely too strong a word to characterize how this went down, but Mickelson might be sitting somewhere nodding his head and saying, “What took you so long?’’

When you get past the rhetoric associated with his “obnoxious greed’’ comments concerning the PGA Tour and his belief about using the LIV Golf League as leverage to extract more from the PGA Tour, you are left with a couple of truths.

Mickelson has long believed that the star players are not compensated in relation to their worth; that there are too many tournaments and that the big names should play together more often; and that the PGA Tour was sitting on a pile of money that should be going to the players.

While his complaints about not getting to own his media rights were off-base—no sports league grants that to players, otherwise television rights fees and marketing agreements would prove to be far less valuable—he seemingly had a point as it related to other issues.

“He probably didn’t communicate it very well,’’ said PGA Tour veteran Adam Scott of Mickelson. “I think the hardest thing for the Tour is it’s trying to be all things to all people. It’s a very, very hard thing to do. It’s impossible to please everybody. They certainly can’t have everybody happy, but you’ve got to please someone.

“And I think that’s kind of what Phil might have been trying to say. He’s been on Tour a long time and maybe he felt that strongly about it. With all of the things going on, I think it’s fair to say that the balance of the pro game was a little bit out of shape. Hopefully these are steps to get the balance.’’

The big changes that Monahan announced centered around the requirement that the top players—as determined by the Player Impact Program—play a minimum of 20 tournaments, with 17 of them the same.

Along with previously announced increases for next year and those announced by Monahan last week, more than $100 million in prize money will be added in 2023. The PIP is being increased from $50 million to $100 million. Regular tournaments, as scheduled, will see prize money bumps as well.

It’s probably not as much as Mickelson got to sign with LIV Golf, but it’s significant. And it suggests that perhaps this could have been done before. Monahan said a majority of the money is coming from a reserve fund the Tour grows, as well as increased help from title sponsors.

Isn’t that what Phil Mickelson was suggesting?

“I don’t think he was the only one who thought (some of those things),’’ Scott said. “I’ve checked in with some people in the executive office at the Tour and I’ve also thought that should be a direction the Tour goes.

“With no ill feeling to anyone. I think our product has been diluted. Our players were spread thin. And that’s changing, hopefully, that’s been identified and rectified. And it’ll be good if the mark responds and hopefully that is what they want to see.’’

Billy Horschel has been a harsh critic of LIV Golf and was not willing to go so far as to give Mickelson and LIV Golf credit. “When I heard that, it irked me a little bit,’’ he said.

Horschel noted that Mickelson was not the only player “on his high horse’’ about seeking change for the Tour.

“There has been a lot of talk among the top players over the past few years about what they would like the future model to look like,’’ he said. “It just allowed everything to speed along a little bit.

“I have tremendous respect for Phil but I can’t give him credit for what our product looks like. I give credit to the entirety of the PGA Tour, and finally, all of the players getting together and deciding what we wanted and giving them a blueprint of what it should look like and how it should go.’’

No matter where you stand on the issue of LIV Golf and all of its disruption, it happened, in part for some of the reasons Mickelson —and others—outlined: The lack of guaranteed compensation in golf as well as the notion that stars were underpaid.

LIV went off the charts with its commitment to such efforts. The PGA Tour has responded with more modest but certainly not inconsequential upgrades.

The PGA Tour’s season is complete, with the next event not for another three weeks to kick off the last calendar-year schedule.

LIV Golf resumes this week with an event outside of Boston, and then two weeks later—the same as the PGA Tour’s Fortinet Championship—another tournament outside of Chicago.

And the debate will continue.

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