After missing all of February and March over his statements in support of the Saudi-backed Super Golf League, we now learn that Phil will not be at the Masters this year. The big question is why? Has he been officially suspended? The PGA Tour has been cryptically mum on that. Do the powers that be at Augusta National really not want him there? A three-time Champion? The reigning PGA Champ? Or did they bend to the wishes of Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan. Again, a wall of silence. One thing is for sure, the television ratings for The Masters will take a hit without Phil. Granted the Saudi government, and specifically Prince Mohammed bin Salmon, is the very definition of “undesirable.” But the U.S. government hasn’t had a problem doing business with Saudi Arabia, having sold over $60 billion in military hardware to the Kingdom between 2015 and 2020. Yet Phil is being crucified because he made a few off-color remarks, for which he has since apologized. Phil is a professional golfer, not a politician. He was trying to apply additional pressure on the Tour to increase revenue sharing with regard to digital media rights. And yes, Phil would reap a substantial reward if successful, but all of the other tour players would benefit greatly as well.
Super Golf League
The looming threat of the Super Golf League, offering guaranteed money, no cut, and large bonuses for big name talent had already begun to draw a reaction from the PGA Tour well before Phil entered the picture—he just gave it a nudge. A lucrative player incentive program (PIP) was announced back in April 2021, whereby players would receive bonus money based strictly on media appeal. The criteria being a complex algorithm that includes the frequency with which a player’s name comes up in Google searches, social media presence, and network broadcast appearances. For 2021, the PIP was $40 million, and jumps up to $50 million in 2022. Tiger, not Phil, was the primary beneficiary of the PIP, taking home the $8 million first place prize. And then the Tour bumped the purse at the 2022 Players Championship to $20 million, a $5 million increase over 2021. Phil was in exile for the Players, so he didn’t benefit from that either (Cameron Smith walked away with the $3.6 million first place check). In addition, the Tour has increased the FedEx prize money to $75 million for 2022, a $15 million increase over 2021. And since Phil has been banished, with no return date in sight, his chances to share in that pot of gold would appear pretty slim as well.
Taking the Heat
And what about all the other players who played footsy with the Super Golf League? Are they paying a price? Apparently not. Even players who have admitted to signing NDAs with the Super Golf League, including Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood, and Adam Scott, have been given a pass by the Tour and continue to play. Phil alone is taking the heat, and with a thirty-year legacy as a stand-up guy, I suppose that is what we should expect. Still, it would be nice if a few other players (other than Rory of course), would get behind him and state the obvious—Phil belongs at the Masters.
Legacy at Augusta
But since we won’t have the opportunity to see Phil try to add a fourth green jacket to his closet this year, let’s take a minute to review what we will be missing. Mickelson has been in the field at Augusta National for 30 Masters Championships, making the cut 26 times. His record includes three wins, eight Top-5’s, and he finished among the Top-10 fifteen times. And who will ever forget Phil the Thrill dropping it inside ten feet from the pine straw on thirteen when he took home his third title in 2010. With his amazing PGA Championship victory last year at age fifty, we know Phil still has fuel in the tank. Let’s just hope he is there this year to defend it.