Mickelson’s mouth scuttles Saudi tour

Written by ECA Review

The Saudi Arabian threat to establish a rival golf organization to the PGA Tour appears to have gone out of bounds.

Rumblings for the past year or so about Greg Norman being the face of a Super Golf League, affiliated with the Asian Tour and backed by a $300 million investment by the Saudi Arabian government, have suddenly quieted down.

Players were signing up, the rumours said. 

Some of the game’s biggest names were reportedly willing to accept millions and millions of dollars from the Saudi-backed tour, being required to play only 14 events per year, 10 of them in the United States. Each event would be  54 holes with no cut, and last-place money being $92,000. 

Critics said the whole plan was designed for “sportswashing,” a method of trying to clean up the country’s  negative image through wholesome sport.

Tour player Kramer Hickok says he knew of at least 20 PGA Tour players who were ready to jump into the Saudi money pit. 

Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, all recent major championship winners, were among the biggest names being bandied about. 

Jason Kokrak, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott and Ian Poulter were others mentioned as interested, but silent about their intentions due to reported non-disclosure agreements they had signed. 

Reports indicated the Saudi plan was going to go public during the week of the PGA Tour’s flagship event, the Players, in mid-March.

Then, Mickelson’s big mouth appears to have scuttled the whole shebang. 

American writer Alan Shipnuck went public with remarks Mickelson made to him last November during a research interview for an upcoming book. 

Mickelson was quoted as saying the Saudis were “scary mother-(expletive deleted)” and that he knew they had killed Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi “and have a horrible record on human rights” … that they “execute people for being gay.”

Mickelson revealed he was involved to the point that he and three other Tour players actually hired the attorneys to draw up a legal document about how the SGL would be run. 

But, said Mickelson, it was all part of a plan to give PGA Tour players some leverage to extract more money and benefits from the U.S.-based Tour. 

Mickelson said he wasn’t even sure he wanted the Saudi tour to succeed. Sounds like another case of Phil being Phil.

As soon as the Shipnuck quotes went viral, the dominoes started to fall. First Johnson, then DeChambeau, issued statements saying they were staying with the PGA Tour. 

Rory McIlroy, solidly against the Saudi plan from the beginning, said the proposed new tour was “dead in the water. I mean, who else is going to do it? I don’t think they could get 48 guys.”

So the Saudi plan is dust. Is Mickelson’s reputation and legacy equally damaged?

Slap shots

• Blogger Patti Dawn Swansson, on Twitter: “One of the Brier skips, Glenn Howard, is 59. The alternate on the Newfoundland & Labrador team, Nicholas Codner, is 15. After games, Codner rocks to Xbox or PlayStation. Howard just rocks.”

• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “According to Us Weekly Lindsey Vonn and Tiger’s ex, Elin Nordegren, have become pals. Word is Vonn gave Nordegren some autographed skis and in return got a slightly used 9-iron.”

• Currie again: “Global AgeWatch Index has ranked 96 of the world’s best places for seniors to live. Its top three are Switzerland, Norway and the LA Lakers.”

• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com, after LeBron James said a potential third stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers is possible: “LeBron is becoming to NBA teams what Elizabeth Taylor was to husbands.”

• Steve Simmons of Sunmedia:  “The perfect job for the suspended horseman Bob Baffert: training Russian figure skaters.”

• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “The NFL became the first sports league to drop COVID protocols. There were never any protocols on the New York Jets’ wide receivers because they can’t catch anything.”

• Another one from RJ Currie: “According to a TripSavvy, last year Houston ranked No. 8 out of the 10 best U.S. cities for a quick visit. Or No. 1 if you were an NFL team.”

• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “‘The concern about our fans is at the very top of our consideration list,’ said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Hey, if this baseball thing doesn’t pan out, he’s got a good start on stand-up comedy.”

• Perry again: “Definition of a moral dilemma: You’re an anti-masker AND a major-league catcher.”

• Headline at fark.com: “On this day in 1973, New York Yankees pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson made a stunning declaration: the left-handers announced that they had traded wives, children and family dogs. The 70s were a wild time, man.”

• Another one from fark.com: “Jackson Mahomes, who would be totally unknown if he weren’t seeking media exposure, says the media is ruining his life.”

Care to comment? Email brucepenton2003@yahoo.ca.

by Bruce Penton

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ECA Review