World No 2 Jon Rahm believes Phil Mickelson’s legacy to golf should not be overshadowed by his LIV Golf Invitational involvement or his recent controversial comments; Meanwhile, Colin Morikawa insists major glory rather than money is the biggest motivator
Last Updated: 26/04/22 7:59pm
Jon Rahm does not believe Phil Mickelson’s comments or involvement with the LIV Golf Invitational should overshadow what he has done for the sport of golf.
Six-time major winner Mickelson has not been seen in action since the Saudi International on February 6, although on Monday his management confirmed he has applied for an exemption to play in the first event of the Saudi-backed series as well as registering to play in the US Open and PGA Championship.
The 51-year-old caused controversy in the same month when comments from a book excerpt in which he disparaged the Saudis behind Greg Norman’s attempt at a rival league and said he wanted leverage against the PGA Tour were published, but world No 2 Rahm is adamant Mickelson’s legacy should not be tarnished by the recent controversies.
“I don’t think what’s happened recently should, or will, damage his legacy too much,” Rahm, speaking ahead of this week’s Mexico Open, said. “That guy has given his life to golf and a lot of what we have and a lot of what we are competing on now is thanks to him.
“A lot of people focus on Tiger [Woods], but he is easily in the top three best players in the world right now. We should recognise the guy has given his life to the public – nobody has done more for the fans or signed as many autographs.
“I know he’s in a bit of a slump right now, for whatever that may be, but I don’t think his whole career or legacy should change because of a couple of comments.”
Monday’s announcement from Mickelson’s management around asking for clearance to play at the first LIV Golf Invitational event at the Centurions Club in Hertfordshire and his registrations for two of the year’s remaining majors was the first news from his camp since February 22.
I don’t think what’s happened recently should, or will, damage his legacy too much, That guy has given his life to golf and a lot of what we have and a lot of what we are competing on now is thanks to him.
Jon Rahm on Phil Mickelson
That was the day he apologised for his explosive comments about the PGA Tour and the lucrative rival tournaments spearheaded by Greg Norman in which he accused the Tour of “obnoxious greed” and acting like a “dictatorship”, while also admitting he was well aware of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record but was using the threat of a breakaway to “reshape” how the Tour operates.
Yet while Rahm believes Mickelson still has bridges to rebuild, the Spaniard thinks his contributions to golf should allow him some forgiveness too.
“Everybody makes mistakes and everything can be rectified, and I believe that can happen, but that has to come from him as well,” Rahm said.
“I think if they start realising everything he has done in his career since he started, I think a lot of people would understand a little bit more where he’s coming from.
“A little bit of what he did is because of some things he said. Like I said, I think it needs to come from him…but this can be rectified.”
Morikawa: Major wins mean more than money
Open champion Collin Morikawa is adamant winning major titles will always matter more than money as a series of new Saudi-backed events gains momentum.
A planned league has been shelved until 2024 in favour of hugely lucrative individual events, and 15 of the world’s top 100 players have reportedly sought releases from the PGA and DP World Tours in order to play at Centurion Club from June 9 to 11.
But asked on a teleconference to promote his Open title defence at St Andrews if he was intrigued by the ongoing situation, Morikawa said: “No.
“I said at Riviera earlier this year (in February) that my alliance is to the PGA Tour. Will I still watch what’s going on? I mean, yeah. You’re curious to what’s going on. But do I care who’s going to be playing or do I care who’s going to be making money? No, not at all.
“At the end of the day I’m here to win majors. I’m here to win PGA Tour tournaments. Hopefully return and defend my Race to Dubai title. There’s a lot of other things that are on my mind and a lot of goals that I set at the beginning of the year that I look forward to.”
Morikawa believes he is not alone in prioritising tournament victories over money, but the 25-year-old concedes that he has not looked too closely at whether players deserve a greater share of the revenue generated by major championships.
“Sure, I’m guessing that the majors do make a lot of money and there’s never anything bad about making more money, but when you say something like that and you put us in the boat of the only other thing that could keep us here is the money, then that’s just not true,” the world No 3 said.
“Because if that were the case, then you would have had 100 out of 100 sign up for this other Tour that’s happening, but you don’t, right? You have the 15, the unknown 15.”