Alan Shipnuck: There has always been a public and a private Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson surprised the entire golf public with his decision to play at LIV Golf. Golf writers Bob Harig and Alan Shipnuck often wrote about him and praised him, but now many are changing their minds.

“It’s been a remarkable turnaround,” Harig said , as quoted by bbc. “This is going to be part of his legacy. Phil Mickelson should have been taking a victory lap at Southern Hills [in May, defending his PGA title] and he wasn’t even there.

“I’m not convinced golf fans at large are going to hold this against him, but there is still a segment disappointed in what he’s done.

“And in February, there were a dozen guys with their toes over the edge of the cliff ready to jump [to LIV Golf] and as soon as Phil’s comments came out, they all scurried back and left him dangling over the edge of that cliff, to take all the abuse.

“And now they’re trickling out in dribs and drabs. I’m not defending him, but he took a lot of heat.”

Shipnuck on Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson never seems to have been 100% happy with the PGA Tour and its policies. He had his own definite ideas in which direction golf should go, and LIV Golf seemed to offer exactly what Mickelson wanted, of course not counting the money.

“There has always been a public and a private Phil,” said Shipnuck.

“While he can be incredibly generous and have all these random acts of kindness with fans, he likes to stir it up, likes to cause a little trouble.

“He’s always been frustrated in his dealings with the PGA Tour. He hasn’t been able to get his own way and he has grandiose vision of how the business of professional golf should be conducted.

“Finally the Saudis show up with their wheelbarrows full of money and that gave Phil the leverage. And while he would say he was doing it for the greater good, it was only really going to benefit the top players.

“If the Saudi tour became a success and started attracting television contracts and big corporate sponsorships, that’s money that’s going to get siphoned off from the PGA Tour. That’s going to shrink the purses and have an economic fallout for Phil’s colleagues, and that’s why they were so mad at him.”

The statements Mickelson had for the Saudis seemed to go unnoticed, although there was a lot of noise about it.

“It was not about the human rights violations in Saudi Arabia – he was threatening their livelihood.

“His words to me in dismissing the Saudi atrocities were shocking and so blunt. Most guys just stay on script and say we’re just trying to grow the game and you can get away with it.

“Phil said the quiet parts out loud. Ultimately in the world of golf it wasn’t the words that were so damaging, it was the actions and colluding with the Saudis against the PGA Tour that was the original sin.”