NASSAU, Bahamas — A year ago this week, as Tiger Woods’ 2021 Hero Challenge was taking place, LIV Golf was a mere rumor with a lot of chatter and innuendo regarding it coming from the dark corners of the PGA Tour.
Less than two months later, LIV Golf exploded and then news broke about Phil Mickelson joining the Saudi-backed tour for a reported $200 million guaranteed. Other big names in golf, such as Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, then signed on and more followed.
Mickelson was always the face of the LIV Golf movement from the PGA Tour, and because of that he has taken all the denunciation from the critics who sided with the PGA Tour.
Yet it was Mickelson who insisted the PGA Tour was sitting on untold millions that its players weren’t not receiving.
Mickelson shook the PGA Tour tree. The result has been hundreds of millions of dollars the PGA Tour claimed it didn’t have being added to purses, and that’s not including the ballooning to $100 million of the Player Impact Program (PIP), which is essentially popularity-contest bonus money for top players.
For shaking the tree and helping rattle those millions from the PGA Tour branches, Mickelson has been given little credit by the players who remained on the PGA Tour and are reaping the financial benefits.
On Tuesday, I asked Tiger Woods whether, considering the heavy criticism Mickelson has taken and the added money PGA Tour players are now making because of Mickelson, he is owed an apology, and Woods was quick with his answer.
“No, absolutely not, no,” he said. “We took out an enormous loan during the pandemic in which that, if we had another year of the pandemic, our Tour would only be sustained for another year. So, we took out an enormous loan. It worked, it paid off in our benefit, hence we were able to use that money to make the increases that we’ve made.”
The Woods answer was a non-answer, a diversion from the question, which has always been the way he operates when he’s uncomfortable with a query.
But worse: Woods’ answer was an enormous untruth.
When a PGA Tour official was asked about that “loan” Woods pontificated on, the person said there was no loan taken, but that the Tour dipped into its own “reserves’’ for the money needed.
Meanwhile, it didn’t take Mickelson long to respond to Woods’ non-truth with a Twitter post: “Pga tour IRS 990 form from 2018 1.6 billion in stocks 700 million in cash 1.15 billion in non liquid assets. This is from the non profit section. The for profit section hasn’t been stated since 2012 but was more than the non profit part at that time. This can all be googled.”
In the past two years, the PGA Tour had increased purses by $165 million. As for the Tour’s $100 million PIP money grab, Woods finished No. 1 for the second consecutive year and cashed $15 million despite playing in parts of just three tournaments in 2022.
Bill Horschel, who was one of the most vocal critics of Mickelson in public, took home $3 million in free money from the PGA Tour slush fund.
Yet, when asked by The Post on Wednesday if he viewed Mickelson any differently considering the money his controversial actions helped shake free for PGA Tour players, Horschel said, “I don’t.”
“What Mickelson said is what guys have talked about on the PGA Tour for years, we just never got together as a group to make changes,” Horschel went on. “Was it Mickelson that got us together or was it LIV that got us together? I think LIV got us together to help make changes for the betterment of the PGA Tour.
“I don’t think I’d give Mickelson any credit for what we’re doing out here. I would give the element of competition [from LIV] and the PGA Tour having to go against another entity that is viable and has money and can do things. That is what has brought us together, was that entity, not Mickelson himself.”
Jon Rahm, a longtime friend of Mickelson’s, whom he considers a mentor, said he doesn’t know “if those changes would have happened if LIV wasn’t in the picture, so, to an extent, yeah, we should be thankful [for Mickelson’s actions].”
Max Homa, who cashed $3 million of PIP cash, provided an honest and educated answer to what’s taken place.
“Do I think [Mickelson] deserves an apology? If people were to do that, I wouldn’t blame them,” Homa told The Post. “I recognize that he shook the tree, and yeah we’re benefitting financially, but we also have to answer this question every week about the LIV Tour while our product has gone down. It’s nice we’re making more money, and if that is because Phil did what he did then I wouldn’t say someone should apologize, but I would say you could be a bit more thankful.
“But this has caused more chaos than I think the financial benefit of it,” Homa went on. “It’s diluted both products. [The PGA Tour] is not as elite as it could be. It’s not like I was crying poor before any of this happened. I wasn’t asking for $3 million of PIP money.”
But he didn’t give it back, either.