Phil Mickelson turned pro 30 years ago this week after having one of the greatest amateur careers ever, including winning three NCAA individual championships. The PGA Tour has been good to Lefty, with the golfer earning an estimated $925 million on and off the course during those three decades.
Now, he’s set to pocket his biggest payday to date. The 51-year-old will receive roughly $200 million to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, according to the Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine. Two golf insiders told Sportico they thought the reported pay of $200 million for Mickelson and $125 million fee for Dustin Johnson were in the ballpark. Mickelson’s representatives at Sportfive declined to comment on the payout. The first event of the controversial series will take place this week in London.
The reported LIV payday pushes Mickelson’s career earnings to $1.1 billion and makes him the second golfer ever, after Tiger Woods, to earn $1 billion from prize money, sponsorships, appearance fees and course design. (It’s worth noting Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer make the three-comma club on an inflation-adjusted basis.) These estimates are based on gross earnings and are distinct from net worth. Mickelson has been vocal about the dent to his bank account from the bite of California taxes and his “reckless” gambling habits.
Mickelson had to turn down his first big paycheck—$180,000 for winning the 1991 Northern Telecom Open—because he was still an amateur at the time (the last amateur to win a PGA Tour event) and not eligible to collect any prize money. That Tucson event was the first of 45 PGA Tour wins, including his surprise PGA Championship victory 12 months ago that netted him a career-high purse of $2.16 million. However, Mickelson’s best days are long behind him; he’s won only three events during the past nine years.
The winner of six majors never reached the No. 1 ranking in the world, since Woods held the spot for a record 683 weeks, but playing second fiddle to Tiger has been lucrative for Mickelson. He’s earned $95 million in career prize money, second all-time behind Woods ($121 million).
Golf’s biggest stars make most of their money off the course; Phil has earned an estimated $830 million outside of winnings, before the LIV payout. Beyond endorsements and his course design business, that tally includes cases where Mickelson has cashed in on his fame, such as his $9 million check for a 2018 exhibition match versus Woods, as well as the $6 million he earned last year in the first year of the Tour’s new Player Impact Program.
Golfers are attractive for marketers because of the demographics of the golf fan. They have high disposable incomes and are ready to spend on cars, watches, financial services and equipment. Mickelson was a corporate darling, earning $40 million a year from sponsors, like Callaway, Rolex, Intrepid Financial and more. He took a major hit, though, when his controversial comments about LIV Golf and its Saudi backers were revealed in February.
“They’re scary mother——s to get involved with,” Mickelson told Alan Shipnuck, for the book Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar. ”We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
The backlash was swift. Amstel Light, KPMG and Workday all dropped Mickelson as an endorser. Callaway, which has sponsored Mickelson since 2004, said it would pause its relationship with the golfer.
“I am thrilled to begin with LIV Golf and I appreciate everyone involved,” Mickelson said in a statement posted on Twitter. “I also intend to play the majors. I fully realize and respect some may disagree with this decision and have strong opinions and I empathize with that. I have a renewed spirit and excitement for the game.”