In his first public comments since the PGA Tour's stunning alliance with the DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund was announced June 6, six-time major champion Phil Mickelson said he's happy the sides are working to bring the fractured sport back together.
During a news conference Wednesday ahead of this week's LIV Golf League tournament in Spain, Mickelson told reporters that he thinks the plan to reshape the sport is ahead of schedule.
"I would say I felt appreciation that we got to this point where we're working together because it makes me confident with where the game of golf is headed in the future," Mickelson said. "We felt like it was going to be about two years roughly before we got to that point. It took a year and a half or six months quicker than I thought it would be."
Mickelson declined to talk to reporters at the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club earlier this month, saying he didn't want to deflect attention from the major championship. He missed the cut and wasn't around for the weekend.
Mickelson has been heavily criticized for comments he made about the Saudi Arabian monarchy's history of human rights abuse and the PGA Tour's alleged "greed." He lost several longtime sponsors before joining LIV Golf last year.
"Going forward, we're all very optimistic about where the game of golf, professional golf specifically, is headed," Mickelson said Wednesday. "Also, a lot of the changes that have been made because of LIV were all very [appreciated], both on the LIV Tour as well as the PGA Tour, and we're happy for the guys out there that they're having some positive changes there, as well."
The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF have reached a framework agreement to form a new entity that will combine their commercial assets. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will serve as CEO of the new entity; PIF chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan will be its chairman. The PGA Tour will have a controlling interest in the new company, regardless of the size of PIF's investment. Al-Rumayyan will also join the PGA Tour's policy board if the deal is finalized.
The PGA Tour policy board met in Detroit on Tuesday. Player directors sitting on the board -- Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Charley Hoffman, Peter Malnati and Webb Simpson -- were assured by tour management that they will have to approve a final agreement between the former rivals.
The framework agreement doesn't specify what will happen to the LIV Golf League, which is being financed by PIF. According to the framework agreement, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN on Monday, the "NewCo will undertake a full and empirical data-driven evaluation of LIV and its prospects and potential and will make a good faith assessment of the benefits of team golf in general, and PIF, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour will work together in an effort to determine how to best integrate team golf into PGA Tour and DP World Tour events going forward."
LIV Golf League CEO and commissioner Greg Norman has told his circuit's players and employees that LIV Golf is a stand-alone entity and is making plans for the 2024 season and beyond.
"Everything over the last couple of years that we've been told by Greg and everybody on LIV has come to fruition, so we have a lot of confidence in what they have been saying to us," Mickelson said. "We don't really feel the need to publicly posture our position. There's really no need for us to talk about things publicly but to just let it play out."
The framework agreement also included language about how players who were suspended by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour for competing in LIV Golf League events could reapply for membership to those circuits. Under terms of the framework agreement, the tours "will work cooperatively and in good faith to establish a fair and objective process for any players who desire to reapply for membership with the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour following the completion of the 2023 season and for determining fair criteria and terms of readmission consistent with each Tour's disciplinary policies."
Mickelson, who won 45 times on the PGA Tour, was asked about the possibility of returning to that tour.
"Rather than saying yes or no, I know that from a player experience, all of the difficulties and challenges and things that take a lot of excessive energy and output throughout the week have been fixed at LIV," Mickelson said. "So the player experience here is incredible. I just can't envision a better scenario for me as a player than playing out here on LIV."
4Aces GC captain Dustin Johnson, who won LIV Golf's individual and team championship in its inaugural season in 2022, told ESPN at the U.S. Open that Al-Rumayyan told him that LIV Golf would have a full schedule in 2024.
"I'm excited for the future," Johnson said in Spain. "I think with this agreement, the only thing that's going to happen is LIV is going to get even better than what it is now, which it's already great. I'm happy exactly where I am, and I'm definitely not looking to play more golf than I'm playing now, that's for sure."
Spain's Sergio Garcia, captain of Fireballs GC, was suspended by both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour for joining LIV Golf. He later resigned from both tours. Garcia told reporters in Spain that he is confident the LIV Golf League will still be playing in 2024.
"Yes, very confident," Garcia said. "I mean, that's what I can see. That's all I can say. I think we're in a good spot. I think there's a lot of details that are not finalized yet, and there's a lot of speculation. But I think it's going to be a great deal for everyone, and I don't expect us to not be here next year."