Veteran golfer Phil Mickelson says the controversial LIV Golf series is a “force” in the sport and it’s “not going away.”

Speaking ahead of the season finale at the Trump National Doral Golf Club, near Miami, Mickelson praised the Saudi-backed series for how much it has grown during a tumultuous debut year.

“If I’m just looking at LIV Golf and where we are today to where we were six months ago and people are saying this is dead in the water,” he told reporters.

“We’re past that, and here we are today, a force in the game that’s not going away.

“It’s pretty remarkable how far LIV Golf has come in the last six, seven months. I don’t think anybody can disagree with that.”

Earlier this month, American Dustin Johnson secured the inaugural season-long LIV Golf individual championship, earning himself $18 million.

This weekend LIV Golf will hold a team competition with a $50 million prize purse.

Despite the eye-watering prize purses on offer, the breakaway series has continued to cause huge divisions in the game of golf.

In August, the LIV series joined an antitrust lawsuit from some of its stars that alleges the PGA Tour threatened to place lifetime bans on players who participate on the LIV golf series, adding that “unprecedented suspensions” were placed upon them.

The PGA Tour filed a countersuit in late September, claiming “tortious interference with the Tour’s contracts with its members.”

The LIV suit also alleges the PGA Tour has threatened sponsors, vendors and agents to coerce players to abandon opportunities to play in the Saudi-backed series’ events and access to their members.

Phil Mickelson, who joined the series earlier this year, has previously said he’s happy to be on the “winning team.”

Next year’s season is set to grow from eight to 14 events and former US President Donald Trump’s golf clubs will continue to play a major role.

Controversial backing

The LIV Golf series is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the man who a US intelligence report named as responsible for approving the operation that led to the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Bin Salman has denied involvement in Khashoggi’s murder but critics have called the series a “sportswashing” tool for the regime.

Mickleson, though, says he’s focused on golf and is excited to play in the season-finale which is set to start Friday.

The event will consist of 12 four-man teams all competing for a first-prize worth $16 million.

“This is a unique thing happening in professional golf, and it’s pretty exciting, and to be on a historic course that held a (PGA) Tour event for longer than I think just about any other event or was in the top 3 or 4.

“It’s pretty special to have this monumental event take place on this site, too.”

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