PGA Tour commish indirectly addresses Phil Mickelson’s status: ‘Every player’s accountable for their actions’

About an hour after Rory McIlroy called for more transparency with suspensions on the PGA Tour, commissioner Jay Monahan refused to disclose whether Phil Mickelson has been suspended amid the controversy surrounding the Saudi Arabian-financed Super Golf League. This as Mickelson has disappeared from public view after issuing an apology following comments that created a significant stir.

Mickelson is currently in a bit of a career tailspin. After apparently helping write the operating agreement for what would be a breakaway league backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (essentially the financial arm of the Saudi Arabian government), Mickelson lost a majority of his sponsorships because of some incendiary comments he made about the league and its backers. He later apologized, but KPMG, Workday and Amstel Light all jumped ship with Callaway putting their relationship on pause.

Mickelson said in a statement that he was going away for a while, and he did not show up to this year’s Players Championship. (In fact, he’s one of just four top 50 players in the world who is not playing.)

… I have often failed myself and others too.  The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level.  I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.

Of course, this statement begged a question: Did Mickelson choose to take a break, or was he asked to go away for a bit by the PGA Tour, to which he not only failed to apologize but previously called obnoxiously greedy in the way it conducts business.

Monahan was asked about this Tuesday during his annual state of the union at The Players Championship. He didn’t provide much in the way of information, only stating that he has not spoken with Mickelson since the comments were published by journalist Alan Shipnuck. However, Monahan chose his words carefully and said something at the end that raised a few eyebrows.

“I think that, as it relates to Phil … the ball is in his court,” said Monahan. “He has said that he’s stepping away and he wants time for reflection. That’s something that I and we are going to respect and honor. When he’s ready to come back to the PGA Tour, we’re going to have that conversation. That’s a conversation I look forward to.”

Interestingly, Mickelson has not necessarily denied that he would still play in the Super Golf League, nor has he said (or even insinuated) that he will return to the PGA Tour. So, there’s still a lot up in the air.

“He’s a player that’s won 45 times on the PGA Tour. He’s had a Hall of Fame career. He’s won here at The Players Championship. He’s inspired a lot of people and helped grow this Tour, his Tour,” Monahan said. “So, as difficult as it is to read some of the things that were said, ultimately a conversation will be had when he’s ready to have it, and I will be ready to have it as well. 

“I’m not going to comment — we don’t comment on disciplinary matters, and Phil has asked for some time to step away, and I’m not going to comment any further on that.”

Monahan did comment further, though.

“He stepped away on his own accord, and he’s asked for time. He’s been given that time. We don’t comment on disciplinary matters, potential matters or actual matters, but every player is accountable for their actions out here,” he added.

The PGA Tour is infamously not required to disclose suspensions or fines, which is why McIlroy called for the reform he did just before Monahan stepped to the podium (Monahan was asked about those comments and joked that Rory is now suspended.)

However, it did seem like Monahan slipped a bit at the end there: Every player is accountable for their actions out here. That certainly sounds like something you would say if a player was suspended but you didn’t want to publicly disclose that he was suspended.

On the other hand, Monahan might not even need to bring the hammer down. Mickelson might just stay away for a period of time — almost like an unwritten suspension — with them scheduling a conversation prior to his return. Perhaps he never comes back at all. Perhaps he stays away for a bit (whether by suspension or his own choice) and eventually moves on to a rival league.

The bigger point is that it didn’t sound like Monahan really cared all that much if those latter scenarios happen. He addressed the SGL saga as a whole (separately from the Mickelson-specific parts) before a single question was asked and hit the press conference version of a walk-off homer with his statements.

It was not a Monahan we’re accustomed to seeing, but he was clearly emboldened by most of his top stars backing the PGA Tour he helps run.

“The PGA Tour is moving on. We have too much momentum and too much to accomplish to be consistently distracted by rumors of other golf leagues and their attempts to disrupt our players, our partners, and most importantly our fans from enjoying the Tour and the game we all love so much. I am grateful for the strong support our top players have shown recently and publicly, and I’m extremely proud that we’ve turned the conversation around to focus on what we do best: Delivering world-class golf tournaments with the best players to the best fans, all while positively impacting the communities in which we play. We are and we always will be focused on legacy, not leverage.”

That last part was a clear shot at Mickelson, who has spoken often of using leverage against the Tour to bargain for more resources, money and benefits. Though the Tour has actually acquiesced a lot over the last few years, it’s clear that Monahan was intent on regaining control of the reins and no longer being held hostage by rogue officers operating in bad faith.

“We’re at The Players Championship,” he added. “We’re back here, and we’re going to have full capacity, full crowds, the world’s best players, and we’re going to accelerate into our season of championships and continue to grow this Tour. And when we do that, all that other stuff doesn’t matter because we’re in a position where no one can compete with what we have.”

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