NEW YORK (AFP) — Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson says he expects major tournaments will not ban LIV Golf players and the 54-hole events of the Saudi-backed series will receive world ranking points.
The 52-year-old American left-hander whose departure from the US PGA Tour helped create the upstart series spoke to Sports Illustrated in an interview published Friday.
Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, won the 2021 PGA Championship at age 50 to become golf’s oldest major winner but skipped the PGA and Masters earlier this year during a break from golf after controversial comments about the PGA split and LIV Golf Series.
He told Sports Illustrated that after talks with Augusta National Golf Club chairperson Fred Ridley that he expects to play the Masters next year and anticipates LIV Golf players will be allowed at all majors.
“I believe wholeheartedly I’ll be at Augusta,” Mickelson told the magazine. “I thought my conversations with Fred Ridley — which I will keep between us — were extremely classy. I have the utmost respect for him and the leaders of the majors.”
The US PGA Tour has banned all members and former members who teed off in a LIV Golf event, but the US and British Opens allowed LIV Golf players who had qualified to compete in those majors this year.
“There has been to date no threat at all,” Mickelson said. “I’m not saying that couldn’t change. I just don’t see how that could benefit anybody. I believe they are wise enough and great leaders who can see that.”
“I really don’t think that’s going to happen.”
LIV Golf offers record purses of $25 million for 54-hole events and a shorter schedule for players, changes that have helped attract such PGA stars as Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau.
Mickelson said having the majors ban players from the upstart series, 26 of them among the world’s 100 top players, would hurt the events and the sport.
“I believe they understand how not having many of the top players in the world undermines their events and how that would hurt the game of golf,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson also said the world golf rankings system would be undermined without awarding points to LIV Golf events, citing such talent as world number two Cameron Smith, the reigning British Open champion whose LIV Golf debut came Friday at Boston.