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October 29, 2008

Phil looks overseas in 'stagnant' U.S. golf market

Posted at 11:58 AM by Mike Walker | Categories: Phil Mickelson

Deep Throat's advice to Woodward and Bernstein still holds true, whether you want to understand a presidential cover-up or why your favorite golfer is playing overseas every other weekend.

Follow the money.

Mickelson_300 With European Tour purses gaining significantly against their U.S. counterparts, many top PGA Tour players are considering joining the European Tour. The latest to express interest is Phil Mickelson.

Lefty in the Old World is not exactly David Beckham in reverse. Mickelson would still play the U.S. tour, but if he plays in 12 European Tour events he can qualify for next year's season-ending Dubai World Championship tournament, where $20 million will be up for grabs. The three U.S.-based WCG events (Bridgestone, Accenture Match Play and CA Championship) the three U.S. majors already count as Euro Tour events so Mickelson could fill his Euro dance card pretty easily with events like The Scottish Open (which he played this year) and late-season tournaments in Asia when the PGA Tour enters its quiet fall season.

Mickelson, who's preparing to defend his title at the HBSC Championship in Shanghai next week (another Euro Tour event), told the Agence France-Press that he hasn't joined the European Tour yet, but that it's "something I am certainly considering." When he explains the decision, Mickelson sounds more like an investment banker than a professional golfer, and a savvy one at that.

"I think Dubai has taken one of the giant leaps to making the game of golf more global in the quality of events," said Mickelson, adding that there had been a number of contributing factors that made international golf more attractive.

"Certainly, the dollar weakening over the past few years has made foreign currencies much stronger, which makes the purses much larger, so there's been a lot of international wealth being created," he said.

"The US golf industry has been stagnant for quite some time so all of our growth has been occurring on a global basis.

"As a professional golfer we have to adapt to that by playing more internationally because that is where the opportunities are and that's where they will continue to grow.

"So I look forward to having opportunities to continue to play more internationally and I understand that that is going to be an important part of being an international golfer."

Mickelson has had differences with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in the past, so it's not surprising he's quicker than most to look to money-making opportunities overseas. The PGA Tour has put on a brave, "weather the storm" face during the current financial crisis, but if one of the Tour's few bankable stars is going to spend a couple months a year playing overseas, well, that's not good.

(Photo: Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

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