LIV Golf: Money has talked for Phil Mickelson, not his love for the game - Martin Dempster

He may have left it late but was there really any doubt that Phil Mickelson would be playing in the inaugural LIV Golf event, which starts at Centurion Club near St Albans on Thursday?

‘No’ is the answer and, being brutally honest, all it came down to was how much the six-time major winner was going to be paid to join the Saudi-backed series.

The figure being reported is $200 million and, to put that into context, it’s believed to be $75m more than Dustin Johnson is getting to also be part of the breakaway circuit.

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With all due respect to Johnson, his capture wasn’t really overly exciting whereas the addition of Mickelson is a game-changer for the first of eight such events.

He’s been in four-month exile since creating havoc with two damaging interviews earlier in the year and even sat out a title defence in last month’s PGA Championship in Tulsa.

We’ve all been waiting patiently for him to put his head above the parapet again and, as had been widely thought, money has talked.

In a social media post, Mickelson spoke about how he sees LIV Golf as a “fresh start in the game I love” and said it is a “new path” after 30 years on the PGA Tour.

On the one hand, you can see why a soon-to-be 52-year-old might have that viewpoint, but let’s not be kidded about the real reason for this.

Tiger Woods is reported to have turned down $1 billion to join LIV Golf but Phil Mickelson has signed up for $200 million. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

Mickelson was extremely reckless over his comments about the PGA Tour in one of those aforementioned interviews and probably won’t be welcome to play on the US circuit for some time.

It is also worth noting, of course, that he was scathing about the Saudis, referring to them as scary motherf***ers”, but the difference is that they need him.

Without Mickelson and, again, I say this with all due respect to Johnson, as well as the likes of Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Louis Ooshuizen, LIV Golf’s CEO and commissioner Greg Norman wasn’t ticking one of his biggest and important boxes.

All of a sudden, this week’s event isn’t just a golf story. It’s become one of the big sports lines over the next few days, meaning the LIV Golf narrative is going to reach a wider audience.

In an interview with Bob Harig for Read, Mickelson has already spoken about how he now regrets the way certain things were handled and how the last four months have allowed him to achieve a “better balance in my life”.

Unlike Johnson and a number of others playing this week, he also said that he would not be forfeiting his PGA Tour membership, but let’s wait and see how that one unfolds.

It will also be interesting to see what stance, if any, is taken by the USGA, which isn’t accountable to either the PGA Tour or DP World Tour but you’ve got to think would be erring on their side, for next week’s US Open.

With Norman claiming that Tiger Woods was offered a nine-figure sum to join LIV and also calling Jack Nicklaus a “hypocrite”, it’s already starting to get tetchy.

As he steps back into the spotlight, Mickelson in particular might have to tread carefully on his trip to England to avoid adding further fuel to the fire.

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