Phil Mickelson could be one of the lead names to tee it up in the inaugural Liv Golf Invitational Series, the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway tour, after he requested a release to play in its opening event in June.
The six-time major winner, the reigning PGA champion, has not competed since taking an indefinite break from professional golf following the publication in February of controversial comments made about the PGA Tour and Saudi.
In a statement released late on Monday, Mickelson’s management confirmed their client had sought approval to compete in the June 9-11 event, the Liv Golf Invitational at Centurion Golf Club outside London, which kickstarts the new tour.
"Our client Phil Mickelson is officially registered to play in the PGA Championship as well as the US Open," Steve Loy, co-president of Sportfive management, said in the statement. "We have also filed a request on his behalf for a release to play in the first Liv Golf Invitational in London, June 9-11. This request complies with the deadline of April 25 set forth by the PGA Tour to compete in a conflicting tour event.
"Phil currently has no concrete plans on when and where he will play. Any actions taken are in no way a reflection of a final decision made, but rather to keep all options open."
Having last year become the oldest major winner with victory at the US PGA Championship aged 50, Mickelson may return to defend his crown next month at Southern Hills Country Club in Oklahoma, from May 19-22. The US Open falls the week after the Liv opener, at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
PGA Tour members wishing to contest the Liv Golf Invitational had to apply for a release from the circuit by the beginning of this week. The money-spinning series, which is spearheaded by Greg Norman and has caused a stir throughout the pro game, will offer a $25 million purse per tournament – there are eight events scheduled through until the finale in October – making each more lucrative than any stop on the PGA Tour.
On Monday, the Sports Illustrated website reported that 70 players, as of yet unnamed, have committed to play at Centurion, including 15 of the top 100 in the world rankings. The UK's Daily Telegraph then reported Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood - all European Ryder Cup stalwarts - were considering participating in the June event.
Mickelson’s involvement in the new series would represent a major boost to the fledgling tour. In his comments made public in February, the three-time Masters champion said he had helped support organisers of a Saudi-backed tour, while also using it to gain leverage and force change on the PGA Tour. Mickelson later apologised for the comments, which included accusing the tour of “obnoxious greed”.
Meanwhile, the Liv Golf Invitational Series announced on Monday that it will stage its season-ending Team Championship at Trump National Doral in Miami. The tournament, featuring 12 teams and coming two weeks after the penultimate event in Saudi Arabia, will offer a $50 million purse, with $16m going to the winning side.