Phil Mickelson Reeling
Bill Simonson: The Phil Mickelson story is crazy. It hit fast, I know there’s been talk of this billion dollars out there with Saudi money on a split from the PGA Tour of some of the biggest names in golf. It’s been a lot of pushback for the most part outside of Phil.. And then Phil made comments in an interview that he claims were off the record but were released where he’s rippin’ the Saudis. He’s ripping the PGA Tour. He’s losing sponsors. Will this be his legacy? Rex Hoggard from the Golf Channel is standing by one of the better insiders in golf. He joins us on the Meijer Guest Line. Rex, explain the thumbnail version of how we got here with Phil Mickelson.
Rex Hoggard: I think he always wanted to be the smartest guy in the room, and in this particular case, he probably outsmarted himself and to answer your question. It’s going to be a big part of his legacy. There’s no doubt about it. I mean, there’s other things that he’s going to be remembered for. Last year’s PGA Championship and all of his time and all of his accomplishments at the Masters. But it’s going to be hard to get by this one. And by and large, throughout the course of his career, he’s been Teflon like he can make mistakes, and it seems like it just kind of bounced off him. You know, the smile, the thumbs up, all the things he does on the golf course. He’s fine. He found a way around it. This is going to be hard because, as you pointed out, he’s burned it all down. He just didn’t burn one bridge. He burned all the bridges down. He was highly critical, profane even towards the Saudi league. And he was also very highly critical towards the PGA Tour. So it’s just hard for me to wrap my mind around what the end game was other than this was just a private conversation. He got burned on it. This is someone who’s dealt with the media, dealt with that particular media person for the better part of 25 years. And so it’s beyond me how he got caught flat footed and this happened when everything came down so quickly.
Bill Simonson: So where’s the latest? I know KPMG, Amstel Light . Are there any sponsors left standing with them?
Rex Hoggard: Workday is one of his longtime sponsors, and they have not made an announcement. I’ve been told that that contract probably is up in a few weeks anyway, so of course, they will probably just let it go. The big one is going to be Callaway Golf, who has been by his side for over a decade now, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they address it because as it stands right now, he’s not playing golf and if you’re not playing golf, it’s probably not an issue that he feels like they have to address and we don’t know. You know, in his statement earlier this week, he said he was taking time away from the game. A lot of times in the past, that’s been code for someone who’s been suspended. We don’t know that the tour doesn’t talk about suspensions, but if he’s not at Augusta, for example, or if he’s not at the PGA Championship, where he would be the defending champion, I think that would be very telling.
Bill Simonson: I don’t think that Augusta is going to want that drama around their tournament. They don’t want that to be the storyline. That’s just my guess. I’m just saying that from an outside viewpoint looking in. The bigger question is, does this end, is this a good thing? And again, for the PGA Tour, does it really isolate the Super Golf League as this evil, money baron, driven potential league trying to steal the biggest names in golf? Does it? Does it end that push toward Saudi Arabia?
Rex Hoggard: I think everyone, at least in the inner circles of golf, already knew what this was about. I think there things that Phil said, he said the quiet thing out loud, but it was still something that people know. It’s worth watching. They’re just trying to create some sort of way to distract from the awful things that they do, as a regime that prosecutes gay people and prosecutes women that have killed a journalist. So all of the things that we know about the Saudi regime, that’s what they were trying to do away with that wasn’t unknown. I mean, everyone knew what they were getting into if you signed on with this. I will say that this Phil being a big part of it, I would say. Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau on Sunday pledging their allegiance to the PGA Tour when it seemed like they were the two stars who might be leaning in that direction. That was probably the bigger of all the victories. And so, yes, it’s over for now. I would say because there’s still a tremendous amount of money and there’s still an organization whose sole purpose is to create this rival league and they’re going to keep trying. But I don’t I feel like this has set that process back years, maybe decades.
Bill Simonson: You know, the question is if Phil was calling out, you know, greed based on his end and pretty much all ends on this proposed Super League or calling on Saudi Arabia. And you look at the NBA and you look at their connection to China and you look at businesses that are connected to China. Some there were defending Phil, saying, Well, yeah, know I could see how could scare off sponsors. But what he was saying is a truly worthy of being just chastised and isolated the rest of your golf career.
Rex Hoggard: I was thinking about that today, and I don’t know. It’s a really good question. Like why if you got suspended, let’s say, for example, why? Why was he suspended? Was he suspended be cause he said the quiet thing out loud? Was suspended because he used the F-word to describe the Saudis. And when he called them scary, which essentially states what we all kind of know, it is kind of scary to deal with the Saudis on things like this is he suspended because of what he said about Commissioner Jay Monahan, PGA Tour Commissioner Monahan. I don’t know if any of those things reached the level of suspension, certainly not a lifetime ban, which is kind of something that’s gotten bandied about. I just don’t know exactly what he did in this in this situation now. He certainly did not act the way you would expect a PGA Tour player to act. And I’m sure the tour is looking at this as if he in fact did what he said he did, which is put up the actual money, to front the lawyers to create the working document for this new tour. That is an issue, but I don’t know how the tour deals with that
Bill Simonson: because they’re all individual contractors for the most part on the PGA Tour and that if you’re calling out a country or money from a country on human rights violations and then, you know, the NBA has China’s back or the, you know, NBC in the Beijing Olympics, the same NBC like has a major deal with golf. Again, Phil’s words to me require you miss a tournament or two, and he sleeps in his own bed based on sponsors because you know, they they support you as this person that they signed on. I f and if you go the other way, they can drop you. That’s business. But you know, there’s not a hypocrisy, but there’s a very delicate balancing line here with isolating Mickelson like, he’s the bad guy completely.
The PGA Tour Won This Round
Rex Hoggard: No. And it was interesting on Tuesday this week at the Honda Classic, there was a mandatory player meeting and Jay Monohan, the commissioner of the PGA Tour did seem like he was taking a victory lap and did sort of dig in. I think that line that he used to start his speech with anyone who is still interested, he pointed to the door, there’s the door, and he was very careful not to use the term lifetime ban. I think there’s still, as you pointed out correctly, these are all independent contractors. So it would be it would be a legal challenge either way. And I’m sure that both sides probably want to avoid that right now. So I don’t think that Phil is going to be banned for life. I don’t even think he could be banned for a prolonged period of time again. And I would ask exactly what he did that was wrong. Now how far is the commissioner willing to take this because there was other players just not Phil. He seems to be the easy target right now. But there were plenty of other players who were interested, who were in talks, who may have been close to signing a contract with the Super League, and I’m not quite sure how the tour addresses that now.
Bill Simonson: Yeah. Who I mean, had Phil officially committed to the Super League was this all talk conversation that he signed on the dotted line, did he receive money? Where where was it at on players officially breaking from the PGA Tour, led by Phil.
Rex Hoggard: No one, no one had officially committed to the Super League. Everyone had. Everyone who seemed to be leaning in that direction, spoke in code about wanting to talk, wanting to explore your options, like the schedule that they were proposing. You could tell, I mean it became pretty clear, especially in recent weeks, that nobody has publicly committed, which is an important distinction to make. And there’s plenty of rumors that, yes, Phil signed the contract and yes, he had received money. But as of right now, those are just rumors.
Bill Simonson: And for Phil, you’re really guilty of just what you thought was off the record. Somebody smoked you out on it and you’re paying the endorsement price. As I looked deeper at all the stories today, I tried to find a way for the PGA Tour to say, you’re not welcome anymore. And I just don’t see it unless there is a signed document or money received from the Super League. But even then, you’re an independent contractor. If you don’t play an event, there’s appearance money all the time to go to Dubai or any tournament around the world for these golfers. That has nothing to do with the PGA Tour, right?
Rex Hoggard: Well, and it’s important to point out that just last month that 20 of the world’s top 50 players participated in the Saudi international, which was in Saudi Arabia, which required the tour to sign off and they were getting all getting appearance fees. So to your point, there has been a precedent that has been set where they go from here. Again, I think the tour is being very, very careful in what they’re saying publicly. It’s a hard line, but there’s only so far I think they can go legally.
Bill Simonson: Yeah, and that’s that’s why it may be quiet right now. Maybe more about Phil and his lawyers talking with the PGA Tour lawyers, and we’ll see where it goes. Good stuff, Rex. I appreciate your opinion and insight on the Mickelson story.
Rex Hoggard: Appreciate your time. Thank you for having me on.
Photo courtesy of Orange County Register