Breakaway Super Golf League stars 'got the jitters' after Mickelson's Saudi comments

·2-min read

Phil Mickelson's controversial comments that emerged in February led to a collection of leading PGA Tour stars pulling out of the Super Golf League – now officially called the LIV Golf Invitational Series – according to CEO Greg Norman.

Mickelson is the biggest name to have signed up to the Saudi Arabian-backed breakaway league, which begins in London next month.

But Mickelson "hurt" LIV Golf, Norman says, when he gave an interview in November that was reported earlier this year just as the series planned to launch.

Mickelson said Saudi Arabia has "a horrible record on human rights" but added he was willing to commit to the league as it was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates".

The new league had already been widely criticised by several of Mickelson's fellow stars, and further big names – including some reportedly targeted by LIV Golf – denounced it in the days that followed.

Although the league is now ready to start in June, LIV Golf chief Norman has revealed the damage done by Mickelson's comments.

"There's no question it hurt," Norman, a two-time winner of The Open, told ESPN. "It hurt a lot of aspects.

"It hurt the PGA Tour. It hurt us. It hurt the game of golf. It hurt Phil. So, yeah, across all fronts. It wasn't just specifically to us. But it definitely created negative momentum against us.

"Quite honestly, we were ready to launch on the Tuesday or Wednesday of Genesis. We had enough players in our strength of field, or minimal viable product, ready to come on board.

"And when all of that happened, everybody got the jitters, and the PGA Tour threatened people with lifetime bans and stuff like that."

Norman added some players "gave back their money and got out", but Mickelson has requested a release from the PGA Tour to play in London, having last appeared at the Saudi International on the Asian Tour prior to the publication of his interview.

"[Mickelson] is always going to have an open door," Norman added. "It's going to be his decision, his decision only.

"He's got a few things he has to work out himself, obviously, with the PGA Tour and where he wants to go with them and how he wants to go with them.

"I can't read Phil's mind because I haven't spoken with him.

"From our perspective, I'm always going to be consistent in that I respect Phil. I respect what he's done for the game of golf, and he's always going to have an open door to any golf tournament he wants to go play as far as I'm concerned."

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