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Phil Mickelson: Threat of rival leagues puts more money in PGA Tour players' pockets

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Even the specter of a rival league has already made a difference in the lives of PGA Tour players, Phil Mickelson said Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of the Asian Tour’s Saudi International – notable, since he did not give a pre-tournament news conference at the PGA Tour’s American Express despite his hosting duties – Mickelson said that the rumors swirling about a Saudi-backed Super League have given players more leverage on Tour.

Of Golf Saudi, he said, “I think as a player we’re very appreciative of the support that they have shown in supporting the LET and the LPGA, as well as creating some leverage for players to have a leg to stand on and try to make the work environment better on the PGA Tour, and we’re very appreciative of everything they’ve done.”

Full-field tee times from PIF Saudi International

It’s been reported that the 51-year-old Mickelson, the reigning PGA champion, is one of the main targets for the rival tour. The Telegraph reported this week that Ian Poulter has been offered upwards of $30 million to switch allegiances, and other top players are expected to command even more lucrative deals.

Players such as Mickelson controversially needed to receive a release from the Tour in order to play in Saudi Arabia. In exchange, the players are expected to compete at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at least once in the next three years. Mickelson is a five-time winner there.

Mickelson 'appreciative' PGA Tour has competition

Mickelson 'appreciative' PGA Tour has competition

Though no players have publicly announced their intentions to join the breakaway tour, Mickelson said that the mere threat of another option has been a boon to the Tour's superstars.

Asked in particular about the concepts of the Super Golf League, Mickelson said: “I think everybody is looking at it and seeing parts of it that can really help and benefit their situation, their life, their career, and then there’s parts of it that they’re probably concerned with.

“I’m appreciative of the fact that there is competition, and that leverage has allowed for a much better environment on the PGA Tour.”

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No players have publicly signed up to participate in a proposed rival league, but a few of the game’s biggest names said that they see value in a team concept.

Mickelson mentioned the FedExCup bonus pool jumping to $75 million, as well as the introduction of the now-$50 million Player Impact Program (which Mickelson claims he won) and the Players Championship purse swelling to $20 million. Players wouldn’t have those new earning opportunities, he said, “if it wasn’t for this threat.” A new media rights deal also kicked in this year.   

“I’m appreciative of the competition,” he said, “and what my hopes are is that the biggest thing, which are the media rights and the way the players have been used for so long, I hope that that changes through the competitive opportunity, as well.”