Golf legend Phil Mickelson slams ‘obnoxious greed’ of PGA Tour after netting nearly $800m during career

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Leftie legend Phil Mickelson sat down for an interview with Golf Digest during the Saudi International and raged over the “obnoxious greed” of the PGA Tour for not allowing him to earn more, citing it as a reason he is “looking at opportunities elsewhere.”

The 51-year-old Michelson has won nearly $100 million while on the PGA Tour and his pension is reportedly worth in the neighborhood of at least $200 million, according to the Daily Mail. Add to that the $500 million in sponsorship money the golfer has received and he appears to not be hurting in the least for funds.

The golf legend is referring to the Saudi-backed Super Golf League (SGL) when he alludes to other opportunities. The league has reportedly contacted “pretty much every player in the top 100.” And they are said to be offering top dollar for talent to come their way.

Five future Ryder Cup captains, including Ian Poulter Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, and Graeme McDowell, are all allegedly considering deals of $27 million each. Golfer Lee Westwood announced that he has signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that prevents him from discussing the issue.

Former World champion Dustin Johnson is also said to have an NDA, while Bryson DeChambeau has been reportedly tempted with a $135 million deal to be the new face of the Saudi golf revolution. DeChambeau denies that figure was offered to him.

Many in the sport believe that the Saudi-backed league will kill the sport. Mickelson, however, claims it is the PGA Tour’s own greed that is threatening golf and is responsible for the rise of the Super Golf League.

“It’s not public knowledge all that goes on,” Mickelson told Golf Digest alluding to media rights.

“But the players don’t have access to their own media. If the tour wanted to end any threat [from Saudi or anywhere else], they could just hand back the media rights to the players. But they would rather throw $25 million here and $40 million there than give back the roughly $20 billion in digital assets they control. Or give up access to the $50-plus million they make every year on their own media channel,” he added

When players join the PGA Tour, they assign their media rights to them. The practice dates back to more than 50 years ago when Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Bob Goalby left the PGA of America and eventually formed the PGA Tour.

The PGA Tour can take a fee whenever members appear on television outside of a Tour event and it requires players to ask for permission to play at competing tournaments.

“There are many issues, but that is one of the biggest,” he added. “For me personally, it’s not enough that they are sitting on hundreds of millions of digital moments. They also have access to my shots, access I do not have. They also charge companies to use shots I have hit. And when I did ‘The Match’ — there have been five of them — the tour forced me to pay them $1 million each time. For my own media rights. That type of greed is, to me, beyond obnoxious.”

“I think everybody is looking at it and seeing parts of it that can really help and benefit their situation, their life, their career, and then there’s parts of it that they’re probably concerned with,” he said before the beginning of the tournament. “I’m appreciative of the fact that there is competition, and that leverage has allowed for a much better environment on the PGA Tour, meaning we would not have an incentive program like the PIP for the top players without this type of competition. We would not have the increase in the FedExCup money. We would not have the increase in the Players Championship to $20 million this year if it wasn’t for this threat.”

The PGA Tour made a point that their digital assets were not all about Phil Mickelson. They rely on media assets to maximize revenue with approximately 55 percent of the tour’s revenue being paid back to the players.

“I’m not sure how this is going to play out,” he told Golf Digest.

“My ultimate loyalty is to the game of golf and what it has given me. I am so appreciative of the life it has provided. I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know where things are headed. But I know I will be criticized. That’s not my concern. All that would do is dumb down one of the most intricate issues in sports. It would be so naïve to not factor in all of the complexities. The media rights are but a small fraction of everything else. And it is the tour’s obnoxious greed that has really opened the door for opportunities elsewhere,” claimed Mickelson.

He also slammed the PGA Tour for its planned documentary series on Netflix that will follow players through a season.

“Take this Netflix project that is underway,” Mickelson remarked. “None of the players are getting paid. But the Tour is getting paid a lot of money. As is Augusta National. As is the USGA. But if the players had their own channel, maybe they put up their own content and we start to see golf presented a bit more intimately.”

“If I had access to my own channel and access to my own media, I would have a camera and microphone on my hat. And on my [caddie] brother’s hat. And on my golf bag with a 360 view. And I would bring the viewers in. They would see and hear what is going on. But none of that happens [currently] because why would any player do that? To make more millions for the tour? They already make enough. The tour only understands leverage. And now the players are getting some of that. So things are changing and will continue to change. I just hope the leverage doesn’t go away. If it does, we’ll be back to the status quo,” he concluded.


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