Australian Golf Digest
[IMAGE: Eric Espada]
Six years apart in age, Phil Mickelson and Pat Perez grew up only a few kilometres apart in San Diego. They played the same golf courses in junior golf. They both went to Arizona State, though each had very different experiences there. They both reached the PGA Tour and were out there for more than 20 years together, though with vastly different degrees of success. Mickelson won 40 more times – 43-3.
Now, they both are competitors on LIV Golf, the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed tour that offered them guaranteed money to play. But that’s where the association between Mickelson and Perez ends.
In the photos of the lavish pre-tournament LIV parties, you’ll never see them posed together. And you damn sure won’t ever see them play on the same team.
Perez, 46, has a “hate” for Mickelson, 52, that exceeds that of “most people” and it sounds as if he’s never getting over it.
On the November 9 edition of Claude Harmon’s podcast, “Son of a Butch,” Perez laid out in no uncertain terms his dislike for Mickelson. Understand, Perez is as outspoken as any player, maybe ever, on the PGA Tour, and he is ultra-comfortable talking to Harmon, who coaches him, along with fellow LIV golfer Dustin Johnson.
And this was Perez again at his most honest and acerbic in talking about a man in Mickelson who was one of the most popular players in golf history until his legacy blew up with his defection to LIV and the comments in made in the aftermath.
Perez remains hot about some kind of rift between himself and Mickelson that he won’t detail. He first spoke of his beef with Mickelson on Colt Knost’s podcast early in February and called Mickelson’s apology about his controversial comments about the Saudis “such horses–t.”
Perez says now that much of what he said about Mickelson was cut from the show. But he wants to make it clear that he was not criticising Mickelson for going to LIV, but for the personal matter between them.
“When it comes to Phil, I have a different hate for Phil than most people,” Perez told Harmon. “People won’t know the story – I’m not going to go into the story again – but Phil crossed the line with me that is just uncrossable and unforgivable.
“He knows that he screwed up. He apologised for the action, but I cannot forgive him for it because I’ve known Phil for a long, long time. I’ve known the guy forever. And the fact that when he made this action, not only was it – he had intentions of doing it; he knew it was going to happen before it happened and when he did it – I was hurt, for one. I was like, How can this guy do this?
“I didn’t really go into it on Colt’s thing, but I told Colt and said, ‘You’ve cut out all the reasons of why I don’t like Phil.’ The other side of the coin is that everyone thought that Phil was greedy. No, he wasn’t greedy.”
Perez contends that Mickelson was “100 percent correct” in criticising the PGA Tour. “If anybody knows what’s going on, it’s Phil,” Perez said. “… He voiced his displeasure on what was wrong with the tour. He’s 100 percent correct. They are for themselves.
“The thing is, Phil almost ruined the [LIV] thing because of his comments about the deal. Guys got scared. ‘This isn’t going to happen. Phil has turned.’ It couldn’t have been worse timing for the LIV group on the deal.”
After initially stating his support for the PGA Tour, Perez ultimately signed with LIV. In the first season that just concluded, he made $US8 million in seven events without a top-10 finish in fields of 48 golfers. By contrast, he earned $28 million in 515 starts over 21 seasons on the PGA Tour. Perez never lost his card over all of that time.
Perez had been unapologetic about bolting for LIV strictly for the money, and Harmon asked him why he thinks he’s been something of a public target for those who don’t like LIV.
His answer, in part, “I grew up in the Tiger-Phil era. They were the dominant players. I think people think my career was better than it was. I’m as much of a realist as any. I know I’m not a world beater. I won three times. But I love it when people say, ‘you only won three times.’ Go win once. … Get through Q School and keep your card. You play in the Masters. I’ve played in every single tournament that’s available in the game. … Then only win three times in  years and tell me how easy it is. I’m so tired of hearing that s—t.”
Perez contends that those who don’t like LIV haven’t given it a chance.
“Everything is, like, ‘If it isn’t on TV, it doesn’t count,’ “ he said. “The people who come out love it. The fans have a blast. It’s like a mini-Waste Management party. … There’s music on the course, the fan interaction with the players is phenomenal.
“People are so stuck on the fact that guys left the PGA Tour, that it has to be terrible. ‘We’re only going to watch the PGA Tour because they love us.’ The PGA Tour doesn’t love fans. They love them because they come and pay money.
“If the fans come out and experience a live [LIV] event … Miami was unbelievable. Give it a chance. You’ve got Dustin and Cam [Smith] and Bryson [DeChambeau] and Brooks [Koepka] and Louis [Oostuizen]. You get to watch all of these great players, but we hate them because they took this money. They call it ‘blood money’ and sports washing’ and all this other crap the media throws at us. … ‘This can’t be real; it’s an exhibition; it doesn’t count.’ If they give us a fair chance, they would say it was amazing.”
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