DORAL, Florida: Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson says the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series is a “force in the game that is not going away” after world No.1 Rory McIlroy expressed fear of an “irreparable” split.
The LIV season concludes at the Trump National club at Doral, near Miami, this weekend with a team championship featuring an eye-watering $50 million purse.
The animosity has left McIlroy worried for the game, but at the media launch for the event, Mickelson said LIV Golf had already defied expectations and was here to stay.
“If I’m just looking at LIV Golf and where we are today to where we were six, seven months ago and people are saying this is dead in the water, and we’re past that, and here we are today, a force in the game that’s not going away,” he said.
Sitting on a platform with British Open winner Cameron Smith, former Masters winner Bubba Watson and English Ryder Cup favorite Ian Poulter, Mickelson said the quality of talent in the LIV series was “moving professional golf throughout the world and (creating an) excitement level in the countries around the world.”
“It’s pretty remarkable how far LIV Golf has come in the last six, seven months. I don’t think anybody can disagree with that,” the American said.
Mickelson declined to respond directly to McIlroy’s comments, saying there would be time after the final LIV event of their debut season to discuss broader issues.
The American was quick to praise McIlroy for his recent success in winning the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup and returning to the world No. 1 ranking spot but said he didn’t want to distract from LIV’s finale.
McIlroy had told the British newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday that the polarization of the sport into two rival camps was damaging.
“This ‘us versus them’ thing has gotten way out of control already,” said the Northern Irishman.
The conflict has gone beyond statements from players and is now in the legal sphere with several lawsuits already begun.
“If the two entities keep doubling down in both directions, it’s only going to become irreparable. We are going to have a fractured sport for a long time. That is no good for anyone,” said McIlroy.