Veteran golfer Phil Mickelson says the controversial LIV Golf series is “a force” in the sport and “isn’t going away.”
Speaking ahead of the season finale at Trump National Doral Golf Club near Miami, Mickelson praised the Saudi-backed series for how much it has grown in an eventful debut year.
“To LIV Golf and where we are today to where we were six months ago and if people say this is dead in the water,” he told reporters.
“We got through it, and here we are today, a force in the game that won’t go away.
“It is quite remarkable how far LIV Golf has come in the last six, seven months. I don’t think anyone can agree with that.”
Earlier this month, American Dustin Johnson captured the season-long LIV Golf singles championship, earning himself $18 million.
This weekend LIV Golf will host a team competition with a $50 million prize purse.
Despite the impressive prize purses on offer, the breakout series has continued to be deeply divisive in the game of golf.
In August, the LIV series came under fire for some of its stars, with the PGA Tour reportedly threatening to impose lifetime bans on players participating in the LIV golf series, adding that they were subject to “unprecedented suspensions.”
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The PGA Tour filed a countersuit in late September, claiming “harmful interference with the Tour’s contracts with its members.”
The LIV lawsuit also alleges that the PGA Tour has threatened sponsors, vendors and agents to force players to give up opportunities to play in Saudi-sponsored series events and to give up access to their members.
Mickelson, who entered the series this year, previously said he was happy to be “on the winning team.”
Next year’s season will go from eight to 14 events and former US President Donald Trump’s golf clubs will continue to feature prominently.
The LIV Golf series is backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia – the sovereign wealth fund that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman named responsible for approving the operation, which was prompted by a US intelligence report. The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Bin Salman has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, but critics have described the series as a tool for the regime’s “sports cleansing”.
Mickleson, however, says he is focused on golf and is excited to play the season finale, which begins on Friday.
The event will consist of 12 teams of four, competing for the first prize of 16 million dollars.
“It’s a unique thing that happens in professional golf, and it’s pretty exciting, and for a (PGA) Tour event to be in the top 3 or 4 for a longer time than I thought it would be.
“It’s also quite special to hold this monumental event at this site.”