EXCLUSIVE – Mickelson looking for love as PGA Tour return looms with LIV merger

PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf agree shock merger

Phil Mickelson has been backed to make a potential return to the PGA Tour in a hunt for “love” by his biographer Alan Shipnuck, if the Tour’s framework agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) is finalised.

The PGA Tour shocked the world of golf in June, after announcing it had reached an agreement with PIF. The Tour had been in an ugly dispute with the Saudi setup for some time, and more closely their new-found rival LIV Golf.

Since the formation of LIV last June, the golfing world has been with the breakaway league able to lure in some of the PGA Tour’s biggest names thanks to its Saudi riches. One man who took the plunge was Mickelson, and it is fair to say he did not leave quietly.

Even before the six-time major winner was an official LIV Golf player, he had already pledged his allegiance to the Saudi-funded series. In an infamous interview with his biographer Shipnuck, Mickelson described those in charge of Saudi Arabia as ‘scary motherf*****s’, referring back to the nation’s poor human rights record, and the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Despite these concerns Mickelson admitted working with the Saudis was an opportunity too good to turn down in a bid to gain ‘leverage’ over the PGA Tour. On the back of his comments ‘Lefty’ went into a state of exile, before breaking his silence months later by officially joining the LIV setup.

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Since then he has not held back in his criticism of the Tour on which he had previously spent all of his professional playing career on. If the agreement between the PGA Tour and PIF goes through, it is expected that players from both sides will have the opportunity to compete across both tours, something that felt impossible just six months ago.

In the case of Mickelson, it appears he has already made his bed and lay in it when it comes to a Tour return. Shipnuck however believes there are a handful of PGA Tour events that could well lure the 53-year-old in. Shipnuck told Express US Sports: “On some level, he wouldn’t want to do that [return to the PGA Tour] because he would be supporting this Tour that has demonized him.

“But I’m sure there would be some emotional pull to play in San Diego, his hometown. Play in Phoenix where he essentially went to college. Play Pebble Beach where his grandfather is a caddie, where he won five times and has a lot of friends in the community. I could see Phil wanting to revisit some of his old stomping grounds and feel some of that love again.”

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The craving of that crowd love again could well be what pulls Mickelson back in, having seemingly been public enemy No. 1 on the back of the LIV saga. The Mickelson of old was seen at this year’s Masters after his final round surge up the leaderboard saw him once again become a fan favorite at Augusta.

“This year’s Masters was huge to Phil,” Shipnuck added. “He showed up, the reception was very ambivalent, his tension his awkwardness at a place that was always so beloved. By the back nine on Sunday when he made that great charge, making birdies, that was the first time he looked like the old Phil, and you could see how much that admiration meant to him, and he had certainly missed that after being cast as the ‘dark night’ in this story.”

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