If you last read up on golf before February 2, grab yourself a cup of tea and some biscuits.
We have a lot to discuss – but most of it can be encapsulated in the wacky world of Phil Mickelson.
To those who haven’t been paying attention, the 51-year-old is the oldest Major champion in history and should be heading to Southern Hills in a blaze of glory, defending his PGA Championship title as one of golf’s most-loved figures.
But all that changed in February – and Lefty hasn’t been publicly seen or heard since.
Ahead of this year’s Saudi International, Mickelson launched an explosive attack on the PGA Tour, accusing it of ‘obnoxious greed’ for hogging ‘his’ media rights – and admitted he was exploring options elsewhere.
There’s a lot to unpack there. But most importantly, this came amid rumblings of a Saudi-backed Super Golf League led by Greg Norman’s LIV Investments, bankrolled by the Public Investment Fund.
Every player inside the world’s top 100, including Mickelson, was being offered eye-watering sums of cash to channel their own greed and join the breakaway project.
After buying a foothold in Formula 1, boxing and Newcastle United among other things, golf was next on the agenda for the PIF in their ever-growing bid to hide Saudi Arabia’s human rights record via sport.
It was gaining momentum, too. Major champions Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau were among some of the world’s biggest stars thought to be interested – until Mickelson accidentally called the Saudis out himself.
In a conversation leaked by journalist Alan Shipnuck, whose autobiography on the six-time Major-winner is set to expose some hard truths on May 17, Mickelson described the Saudis as ‘scary mother*******’ and admitted he was only negotiating with them to gain leverage on the Tour.
The American apologised and announced an indefinite break, missing the Masters in April for the first time in 28 years, amid ongoing uncertainty over whether he is actually banned by the Tour.
Nevertheless, after that small bump in the road, two-time Open champion Norman announced his plans to press ahead with the Saudi-backed league.
It’s now called the LIV Golf Invitational, an eight-event series which will begin at the Centurion Club, just outside St Albans, on June 9, and boasts the biggest purse in golf history – with plans for a full-blown Super League by 2025.
A few issues still linger, though. The PGA Tour and DP World Tour have blocked releases for players wishing to compete in the first event, putting most of the field at risk of fines, suspensions or other sanctions.
The typically-boisterous Norman does not expect the threat of bans to hold up in court, where this battle is destined to end up, and promises legal support to any player wishing to take the risk.
Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and, of course, world no.1080 Robert Garrigus are understood to have requested releases – and Norman hopes more will join once the legality is clear.
It is Mickelson’s position which sums up the whole thing rather well. He filed for release to play in LIV Golf’s inaugural event and also signed up to defend his PGA Championship title at Southern Hills in the same press release from his manager.
Mystery surrounds whether or not he will play at either event, and that’s sort of what the whole world of professional golf looks like right now. What on earth happens next?
The sport is chock-a-block with made beds not lied in, cake both had and eaten, with Mickelson’s the biggest of them all. That unpacking we mentioned earlier? Let’s have a crack.