(Reuters) – Embattled golfer Phil Mickelson will return to competition this week as the six-times major champion has been added to the field for the opening LIV Golf Invitational Series event outside London, the Saudi-backed league said on Monday. Mickelson has been linked to LIV Golf for months but began a self-imposed hiatus from the […]
Mickelson to end hiatus and play inaugural LIV Golf event
(Reuters) – Embattled golfer Phil Mickelson will return to competition this week as the six-times major champion has been added to the field for the opening LIV Golf Invitational Series event outside London, the Saudi-backed league said on Monday.
Mickelson has been linked to LIV Golf for months but began a self-imposed hiatus from the sport in February — even skipping his title defence at the PGA Championship — amid backlash over comments he made about the breakaway tour.
The 51-year-old’s public image took a hit when the author of an unauthorised biography said the American golfer told him he was willing to look past Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to gain economic leverage over the PGA Tour.
Among the other golfers already confirmed for the 48-player event being held June 9-11 at Centurion Club are former world number ones Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer as well as 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia.
Mickelson, however, has long been one of the biggest drawcards in the game, capable of driving up television ratings almost single-handedly when in contention for one of golf’s bigger events, and his presence at Centurion could offer a boost to the first of eight LIV Golf events this year.
“Phil Mickelson is unequivocally one of the greatest golfers of this generation,” LIV Golf Chief Executive Greg Norman said in a news release.
“His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the globe cannot be overstated and we are grateful to have him.”
Both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour have recently declined all requests from members who had asked for releases to compete at Centurion where $25 million is up for grabs, including $4 million for the winner.
It is unknown whether those competing in the lucrative breakaway circuit’s first event, which is being held opposite the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open — where the winner will get $1.57 million from an $8.7 million purse — will face punishment.
Mickelson, a 45-time winner on the PGA Tour, has not played on the U.S.-based circuit since January and last competed in early February at an Asian Tour event in Saudi Arabia.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in TorontoEditing by Christian Radnedge)