Rumors were swirling on Sunday that Phil Mickelson would shock the golf world on Valentine's Day with an announcement he was committing full-time to the Premier Golf League.
Mickelson would be waiting until the end of The Genesis Invitational before divulging to the media he would be joining the in-development concept before his 50th birthday in June.
However, Mickelson ultimately decided now wasn't the time, saying he was "not ready to talk about" a potential move.
He said, according to Geoff Shackelford, “I’m going to play Bay Hill and Players. I’m going to guess by the Players I’m going to have a pretty good opinion. I would guess. I’m not going to promise that. I’ll probably have an opinion by then.”
Eamon Lynch confirms for Golfweek reports of a meeting Tuesday night of Genesis week near Riviera Country Club with a Middle Eastern financier who hosted seven top players and representation for a number of others to discuss Premier Golf League developments.
Rumors have run rampant trying to assign a potential dollar figure to what the Premier Golf League would be willing to pay to lure Mickelson and Woods to the concept. No Laying Up has suggested Woods could be in line for a nearly quarter-billion-dollar payday if he goes to the PGL. Mickelson could be looking at a low nine-figure sum.
The five-time major champion has been among the top players courted by the upstart professional golf circuit, a concept that has been in the works for a decade. In recent months, the principals behind the U.K.-based Premier Golf League have pushed forward to secure the massive financial backing needed to establish the Premier Golf League. Some portion of the backing is believed to derive from Saudi Arabia, which has made a substantial investment in hosting professional golf events as part of its efforts to use sports and entertainment to distract the public from the kingdom's poor human rights record.
Not coincidentally, Mickelson played with some of the backers of the Premier Golf League in the pro-am for the Saudi International. Mickelson skipped playing in the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open, in which he has played 30 times in his career, to take a reported $2 million appearance fee to play in the second-year event.
The Scotsman reported Mickelson played with:
- Richard Paul, a sports marketing consultant and former European Tour tournament director who is a PGL principal
- Andrew Gardiner, a director at Barclays Capital, which has been a Mickelson sponsor
- Colin Neville, who works for The Raine Group, a U.S.-based firm which has been advising and fundraising for the PGL
- Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation
After the pro-am, Mickelson was he was "impressed" with the Premier Golf League concept, which suggests a global schedule of some 18 events reserved for top-name players, ideally in the top 50 in the world ranking. The 48-player individual tournaments could be 54-hole, no-cut affairs for a weekly $10 million purse. A team component would be introduced as well, with 12 players owning "franchises" that are touted as potentially being sold at a future date for hundreds of millions of dollars.
“It was fascinating to talk with them and ask some questions and see what their plans are," Mickelson said in Saudi Arabia. "Where they started, how they started, why and just got their background, which was very interesting. I haven’t had the chance to put it all together and think about what I want to say about it publicly, but I do think it was an informative day for me to have the chance to spend time with them.”
Woods confirmed last week he has been approached about the concept.
"Have I been personally approached? Yes, and my team's been aware of it and we've delved into the details of it and trying to figure it out just like everyone else," Woods said at Riviera on Tuesday. "We've been down this road before with World Golf Championships and other events being started, or other tours want to evolve and started. There's a lot of information that we're still looking at and whether it's reality or not, but just like everybody else, we're looking into it."
With the concept in its early stages, there are still a variety of questions about the viability of the PGL concept:
- The PGA Tour has expressly told its players they would have to decide between competing on the PGA Tour or the Premier Golf League. There would be no hopping back and forth between tours.
- It's unclear if the Official World Golf Ranking, which is influenced heavily by the existing leading world tours, would offer world-ranking points for PGL events.
- The PGL has created a draft schedule, with more than half the schedule played in the United States, but it's unclear how quickly these events could be created -- and if it would be in time for the rumored 2022 or 2023 launch date.
However, the Premier Golf League could soon have its big moment, with a first player to defect from the PGA Tour.