American LIV players should not miss out on Ryder Cup, insists Mickelson

  • Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson at risk of exclusion
  • Mickelson: ‘I don’t see the benefit of the Ryder Cup to change’

Phil Mickelson has suggested it would be unfair for the likes of Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson to miss out on 2023 Ryder Cup participation because they are part of LIV Golf.

The prominence of Koepka at the US PGA Championship has reignited debate over whether Zach Johnson, the US captain, should keep the door open for LIV rebels. Several American players are known to want Koepka and Dustin Johnson among their number for the September clash in Rome but lingering ill-feeling and court battles attached to the LIV breakaway make Zach Johnson’s position tricky. Mickelson has been front and centre of all things LIV from the outset.

Mickelson, speaking after a closing round of 70 at Oak Hill, believes the US have to remain open-minded. “I don’t see the benefit of the Ryder Cup to change from what it historically has been,” said Mickelson. “Which is, the US versus Europe now. Originally it was versus Great Britain and Ireland. But I mean, I don’t see the benefit of changing that. I don’t see how it’s any of the concern of the PGA of America of what tour we play. But that’s just my opinion.”

One certainty is that Mickelson, once a staple of the Ryder Cup setup, has waved goodbye to the event. He insisted it was “not his concern” whether Zach Johnson should be paying close attention to the LIV platform. “I’ve had a lot of great experiences in the Ryder Cup,” Mickelson added. “I’ve been part of, what, 13? I played in 12 and then I was vice-captain at Whistling Straits. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities, experiences, stories, memories. And I’ve had more than my share. So I’m fine with other people having those opportunities as well.”

It is, however, clear Mickelson harbours a lingering grievance over the behaviour of golf’s traditional tours. The six-time major champion confirmed he met with the Department of Justice in recent weeks as part of the US government’s antitrust investigations into professional golf.

Asked about LIV’s greatest achievement as it approaches its first anniversary of tournament play, the 52-year-old said: “It has provided 48 new professional golf opportunities at the highest pay which is incredible. And it is holding a lot of people accountable for some things that they’ve done. It’s appealing to a lot of the younger generation and getting a lot younger fans to come out. It is introducing a whole different vibe to the game of golf that I think is necessary.”

Dustin Johnson of the United States talks with his brother and caddie Austin
Dustin Johnson could miss the Ryder Cup in September because he is on the LIV Golf tour Photograph: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Pressed on what he meant with the “accountable” reference, Mickelson said: “I don’t want to get into specific details. But I know a lot of stuff that that will come out later. I am appreciative that they’re being held accountable.” Similarly opaque was the following Mickelson statement: “I know some things that others don’t. So I just want to make sure everybody’s held accountable.”

It is worth noting at this point that Mickelson earlier affirmed a group of LIV players would win a sporting arbitration case against the DP World Tour. They were duly defeated and comprehensively. Playing the smartest guy in the room is not always a successful tactic.

Mickelson concedes that LIV’s footprint is currently far larger outside of the United States than within it. “Have a little bit more open mindedness? Maybe?” he said in response to how that could change in his home nation. “It’s my guess, but the people that come out and are part of the tournaments, seem to be really enjoying it. So look, it’s not going anywhere. It’s going to continue to accelerate and hopefully people continue to give it a try.”

Zach Johnson plays the straightest of bats in respect of where or if LIV players fit into his Ryder Cup plan. He did admit decisions over captain’s picks – he has six of them – will not be solely his own. “Chemistry is important in any team,” he said. “I haven’t even began to discuss picks with anybody I trust, in my circle. I feel like it’s irrelevant to discuss right now.

Brooks Koepka of the United States plays his shot from the ninth tee during the final round of the 2023 US PGA
Brooks Koepka, who plays for LIV, was leading the US PGA at the start of the fourth round Photograph: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

“I will say this, the guys on the PGA Tour who make that team have direct ownership of that team, collectively. For me to stand here and say I would be comfortable or uncomfortable with anything would be selfish on my part. It’s not my team. I have a leadership council and guys who will finish in the top six [automatic qualifying places] specifically. It’s their team.”

Johnson believes it would be “irresponsible” for him to take in LIV tournaments as a spectator while he remains an active player on the PGA Tour. “It would be inappropriate for me to leave what I am trying to do as a competitor and as a leader,” he said. Here, Johnson matched Mickelson’s four round aggregate of 10 over par.


Ewan Murray at Oak Hill

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Phil Mickelson loses the plot as Justin Rose stays in contention
Dustin Johnson and three other US players share the lead at three-over after the US Open third round, with Justin Rose in contention one shot back

Ewan Murray

16, Jun, 2018 @11:52 PM

Article image
Phil Mickelson wins US PGA Championship in triumph for the ages
Phil Mickelson became the oldest major winner of all time when he saw off Brooks Koepka’s challenge to win the US PGA title at Kiawah Island

Ewan Murray at Kiawah Island

23, May, 2021 @11:28 PM

Article image
Phil Mickelson rolls back years to share US PGA lead with Louis Oosthuizen
Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen share the lead at Kiawah Island on five-under-par after the second round

Ewan Murray at Kiawah Island

22, May, 2021 @12:04 AM

Article image
Trump and Mickelson praise LIV-PGA merger as 9/11 families hit back
The world of professional golf reacted with emotions ranging from bemusement to disbelief to triumph to the shock merger on Tuesday

Tom Lutz in New York

06, Jun, 2023 @6:55 PM

Article image
Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth fail to shine as lesser Open lights sparkle
The American Kevin Kisner took first-day Open honours at Carnoustie after a five-under 66 while Rory McIlroy was three back, alongside Danny Willett

Ewan Murray at Carnoustie

19, Jul, 2018 @8:42 PM

Article image
Brooks Koepka becomes first LIV golfer to win major with US PGA triumph
Brooks Koepka won his fifth major title by two shots from Viktor Hovland as club pro Michael Block hit a hole in one in the final round

Ewan Murray at Oak Hill

21, May, 2023 @10:55 PM

Article image
‘He will win a lot more’: Brooks Koepka can rival greats for majors, says coach
Brooks Koepka’s US PGA victory means he has five majors and his coach, Pete Cowen, thinks the American can win another four

Ewan Murray at Oak Hill

22, May, 2023 @1:53 PM

Article image
Rahm and Koepka provide Masters victories for various sides of golf divide
Jon Rahm’s Masters triumph provided validation for the PGA Tour but Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson’s performance proved the LIV rebels can still mix with the best

Ewan Murray in Augusta

10, Apr, 2023 @6:00 PM

Article image
Troon shows a different face as heavy rain tests Open field’s endurance
Dustin Johnson needed extra towels, the crowd was a sea of umbrellas but at the Postage Stamp the change of wind helped Phil Mickelson’s progress

Mark Tallentire at Royal Troon

15, Jul, 2016 @4:41 PM

Article image
Rory McIlroy questions validity of LIV Golf again as he prepares for US Open
Rory McIlroy, who has just won the Canadian Open, said: ‘LIV means nothing apart from a ton of money,’ while the DP World Tour said it will set out its position on the rebel series soon

Ewan Murray at Brookline

14, Jun, 2022 @4:15 PM