It was only a matter of time before the PGA Tour issued its own salvo in what until now has been a one-sided war of words waged by one man: the reigning champion of the PGA Championship. But it might be more accurate to refer to this first volley as a round of fact-checking rather than an act of aggression.
Indeed, it seems that beyond being genuinely puzzling and more than a little ironic, Phil Mickelson’s explosive charge that the Tour was guilty of “obnoxious greed” isn’t rooted in fact. At least not from the perspective of those with real access to the Tour’s coffers.
Golf.com on Thursday published a report in which multiple executives offered informed rebuttals to the allegations that the Tour is sitting on “$20 billion” in media assets and lording over a mountain of digital content that could — and, in Mickelson’s eyes, should — make the players considerably richer for their efforts. Told of that astronomical figure, sources were unclear on where Mickelson was getting his numbers and what exactly they were attached to. Though he did succeed in making them laugh.
If Mickelson was referring to licensing dollars associated with the Tour’s media archives, as the report’s author James Colgan posited, then he was once again way off base. As a source told Colgan, “that number certainly doesn’t start with a ‘B.'”
Additionally, Colgan obtained records that cast further doubt on Mickelson’s assertions. Here are some more takeaways from the report:
- The $800 million chunk of the Tour’s $1.5 billion in annual revenue that winds up back in the players’ pockets represents a 55-percent piece of the pie, not 26 percent as Mickelson has claimed.
- It was Turner Sports, not Mickelson himself, who footed the $1 million media rights bill for his appearance in The Match.
- Tour officials maintain there have been little to no objections from constituents as to how the Tour has long conducted its business dealings, suggesting that Mickelson has really put himself on an island with his allegations.
- “I’ve never seen anybody be really interested in how we generate the money,” one anonymous Tour executive said. “There’s some conversation about it now because, you know, Phil’s making stuff up that’s just not true. But in general, they’re happy that there’s a lot of money that comes from it.”
What’s Next For Mickelson?
The toothpaste has not just come out of the proverbial tube; someone stepped on the tube and squirted toothpaste across the room. Which is to say, the 51-year-old Mickelson and the Tour on which he’s amassed close to $100 million in career earnings would appear to have some major healing to do…
Unless, of course, he intends to challenge the Tour head-on by striking a lucrative deal to become the face of a breakaway league.