This time last year Phil Mickelson was still a fan-favorite on the PGA Tour, basking in the afterglow of his historic PGA Championship victory in 2021.
Then he called out the PGA Tour for its "obnoxious greed" and called the folks behind LIV Golf "scary (expletive) to get involved with" before he left the tour for the Saudi Arabia-backed league led by Greg Norman.
A lot happens in a year.
Mickelson, 52, was recently interviewed for a Q&A with Sports Illustrated and touched on everything from changes he's made this offseason to his belief that he can "duplicate Kiawah" and win a couple more majors.
"I'm just putting last year out of my mind and disengaging. A lot of stuff happened, and I'm refocused on today and starting the year," said Mickelson, who will tee it up later this week at the PIF Saudi International in the Kingdom. "I'm in every major for the next three years and I think I have a chance to win one or two more and create these accomplishments that haven't been done at this stage."
While majors are still on the horizon for Mickelson, the lefty said he's "at peace" with never playing in another PGA Tour event or being part of the Ryder Cup.
"I've loved being part of the Ryder Cup as a player 12 times and as a vice captain once. I've had more great experiences than probably anybody," said Mickelson. "If I'm not a part of it, I'm at peace with that as well. And I'm proud of the role I've played in that. And the role in creating change and integrating player input and involvement. Having more continuity from year to year. I like seeing us play our best golf in the Ryder Cup, even if I'm not ever part of it again."
Earlier this year Jon Rahm quipped that the Masters Champions Dinner may have some tension with the mix of LIV and PGA Tour players. Mickelson doesn't envision any uneasiness, at least from him. In fact, he said players have thanked him for the role he played in helping LIV off the ground, which led to changes on the PGA Tour.
"I've had a number of guys thank me profusely. I've got the same close relationships with the players I've been playing with around here as I've had in the past. The relationships that are going to be affected were not really close and were more acquaintances. Their views are going to be altered by public perception or whatnot. The friends are still close," explained Mickelson. "And I've been appreciative of the number of players who thanked me for however big or small it may have been to get some of these changes that occurred (on the PGA Tour). It's a decent amount of guys; I don't want to call out guys and who they are. But it's been a good learning experience."
Mickelson previously was open about using LIV as leverage to force the Tour to adapt, and he sees LIV's new TV deal with the CW in the same light.
"I think it's favorable. It's very difficult to have a relationship with a network that had a commitment to other sports and priorities," Mickelson said of the network. "CW has a chance to cover all 14 of our events, putting us first. They have a younger demographic, which we want. They wanted to get into sports and now they have a shot at live golf. It's a two-year deal. The first deal is not going to be a blockbuster. It's short enough time to where we can prove ourselves and then get a much stronger and more lucrative deal. If it were a longer deal, it might be better for them and investing in our product. But having it two years sets us up for a bigger deal."
With a TV deal secure, the next step for LIV is to gain Official World Golf Ranking points for its events. The six-time major champion speculated a new ranking system would be created to include all golfers, going as far as saying the OWGR has "lost any credibility."
"I wouldn't be surprised if tournaments stopped using it as a criteria for qualifying. I think it is ultimately hurting the tournaments more than the players," said Mickelson. "If you're a major championship and you're using it as a qualifying factor and you're taking a system that is not getting all the best players in the field, it hurts the tournament more. That's why you might see tournaments go away from it as qualifying criteria. Or have a new ranking system."
Ever the optimist, Mickelson anticipates in five to ten years we'll look back at the contentious last year as a minor bump in the road.
"It's a short-term disruption for a long-term gain," said Mickelson. "That's all."
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek
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