Phil Mickelson on the majors: 'What if none of the LIV players played?'

Embattled legend hints that big changes could be coming to LIV Golf's rosters, and the majors will need to pay attention

We're deep into golf's major season, and these days — in addition to the opportunity for career-defining and legacy-creating victories — that means it's time for debating LIV players' right to compete in golf's most prestigious tournaments.

Short version: LIV Golf players are enjoying mammoth checks for playing three-round, no-cut tournaments. But that money comes with a cost: Pathways to majors for LIV players are narrow to nonexistent. Since LIV isn't sanctioned by the Official World Golf Rankings, which the majors use to fill out their fields, there's no way for LIV players to win their way into majors if they play only on the LIV tour. LIV's 2023 individual champion, Talor Gooch, couldn't secure an invitation to the Masters or any other major, and he's made no secret of his frustration with that. He did manage to get an invite to the PGA Championship though.

One player who's already secured his exemptions — and thus has no need to hold his tongue — is Phil Mickelson, who's long been one of LIV's chief flamethrowers. In an X take so hot he later deleted it, Mickelson forecast a grim possible future for the majors:

“Maybe some LIV players won’t be missed,” Mickelson wrote. “But what if NONE of the LIV players played? Would they be missed? What about next year when more great players join? Or the following year? At some point they will care and will have to answer to sponsors and television. FAAFO.” (The final acronym stands for "F*** around and find out.")

Here's a screenshot of the since-deleted post:

For the most part, LIV has ratcheted down the "disruptor" rhetoric, focusing on their own lane and leaving the PGA Tour to handle its own business. For the most part. Mickelson has continued to tweak the Tour, airing vague hints of big names to come to LIV. It would be easy enough to dismiss that kind of talk as empty hype, were it not for the fact that only a few weeks after Mickelson suggested there would be major defections from the Tour, Jon Rahm — a close Mickelson friend — did in fact jump to LIV.

If LIV's players did in fact boycott the majors, that would certainly draw the interest of both major organizers and their sponsors. But that implies that LIV players would be willing to sacrifice a year's worth of major competition to make a point, and it's difficult to see, say, Brooks Koepka, among others, making that sacrifice. But the point stands: At the moment, the majors are the only place to see the world's best players in one place, and if that option disappears, all of golf suffers as a result.

Right now, six LIV players — Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith, Koepka, Rahm and Mickelson — have exemptions into all four majors thanks to their victories, and Tyrrell Hatton is in all four thanks to last year's performance. Another eight players have exemptions into various majors thanks to their past victories or recent performance. (The Masters and the PGA give lifetime exemptions, the Open Championship gives exemptions until a former winner turns 55, and the U.S. Open gives a 10-year exemption.)

Nearly 40 LIV players will attempt to play their way into the U.S. Open and the Open Championship through qualifying tournaments in the coming weeks. Dean Burmester, Joaquin Niemann and David Puig have all qualified for the 2024 Open Championship thanks to performance in non-LIV events.

Mickelson will be at the PGA Championship in Valhalla next week, along with several other LIV Golf colleagues, and he'll likely get the chance to elaborate on his major thoughts. And with many LIV contracts due to expire at the end of this year, there will be roster spots open for any PGA Tour players who decide to follow Mickelson's example.