Phil Mickelson, in an interview with the Fire Pit Collective’s Alan Shipnuck, said he has recruited three other players to the Saudi-based golf league and that he and other players paid attorneys to construct the proposed Super Golf League’s operating agreement.
According to Shipnuck—who is releasing an unauthorized biography on Mickelson in May—the six-time major winner admitted last November that the Saudi golf league is nothing more than “sportswashing.” This exercise, particularly when used by state-run groups, is considered a form of propaganda to distract the public from human-rights abuses.
“They’re scary motherf—— to get involved with,” Mickelson told Shipnuck. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Mickelson explained, in his view, that the tour has used “coercive, strong-arm tactics” towards players. To Mickelson the Saudi golf league is a way to combat the PGA Tour and tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
“As nice a guy as [Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage,” Mickelson said. “I’m not sure I even want [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.”
Mickelson also told Shipnuck his issues with the tour’s governance. In Mickelson’s estimation, the tour pretends itself as a democracy but acts as a “dictatorship.”
“They divide and conquer. The concerns of the top players are very different from the guys who are lower down on the money list, but there’s a lot more of them,” Mickelson said. “They use the top guys to make their own situation better, but the top guys don’t have a say.”
Mickelson further explained to Shipnuck that he has “20 players” lined up to jump to the Saudi endeavor. “If the tour doesn’t do the right thing, there is a high likelihood it’s going to happen,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson again repeated his take that the tour is withholding money and digital assests from the players. However, speaking at this week’s Genesis Invitational, PAC chairman Rory McIlroy disputed Mickelson’s claims. “Maybe they’re not educated enough on it, maybe they’ve got people in their ear that’s giving them misinformation, but the numbers are right there in front of you,” McIlroy said at Riviera. “The tour’s financials are audited independently every year. This is what they are. And I’ve seen everything, I’ve been through it. I sat through the board meeting in Houston. I’ve seen it all. I think that’s—that has to—and there’s a lot of players that maybe aren’t privy to that information and maybe that’s on the tour to educate the guys a little bit more, but the information’s all there.”
In the report Shipnuck asserts Mickelson’s partnership could be bred out of personal financial issues due to gambling losses, with a source telling Shipnuck that Mickelson’s sale of his private jet “raised eyebrows.”
Earlier this month Mickelson echoed this comments in an interview with Golf Digest, taking exception to (in his estimation) the tour’s “obnoxious greed,” which has led him to look elsewhere to play. Mickelson is not in this week’s Genesis Invitational field.
This article originally appeared on Golf Digest.