Mickelson Wooed By Premier Golf League Brass In Saudi

The reasoning behind Phil Mickelson’s decision to take up the offer from the European Tour’s Saudi International became a little clearer on Wednesday when the five-time major champions pro-am grouping made their way around Royal Greens Golf Club.

Mickelson’s Wednesday hit-and-giggle pairing was almost certainly a sales pitched aimed at getting the 49-year-old Mickelson on board with the upstart Premier Golf League, which has made waves over the past seven days thanks to reporting from Geoff Shackelford and releases from the proposed tour itself.

According to a report from Martin Dempster of The Scotsman, Mickelson was flanked by Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation, American sports consultant Colin Neville, who works for The Raine Group and London financier Andrew Gardiner, a director at Barclays Capital and a former executive at Lehman Brothers. The group was also joined by a non-playing partner who would only be identified as “Richard.”

Gardiner was identified by Shackelford late last week as a “principal owner” of the PGL website with Neville’s Raine Group identified as the primary financing partner. 

The pro-am pairing was no coincidence, and the men who accompanied Mickelson around the Saudi International tournament course did so while impressing Mickelson when it came to the proposition of a competing professional golf circuit to the PGA and European Tours.

“I had the chance to spend time with and play with the gentlemen in charge of trying to start a new Premier League,” Mickelson said afterward. “It was fascinating to talk with them and ask some questions and see what their plans are. Where they started, how they started, why and just got their background, which was very interesting.

“I haven’t had the chance to put it all together and think about what I want to say about it publicly, but I do think it was an informative day for me to have the chance to spend time with them. I asked a lot of questions today and there are some very interesting ideas and it seems very well put together. I think a huge aspect of it is about the fans. Before I formulate an opinion, I’ll look at whether or not this is a good thing for fans, is this a good thing for sponsors and is it going to be good for television? How does it affect all those involved?”

Mickelson’s company line for originally heading to the Middle East — and collecting a healthy appearance fee — had been that he had supported the concurrent Phoenix Open for 30 years, and he wanted to take the opportunity to “see” a part of the world he hasn’t had the chance to before.

However, given Mickelson’s interesting pro-am pairing, it appears there was more that went into the decision than sightseeing.