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Phil Mickelson welcomes Rory McIlroy's new tone over LIV Golf rivalry

Mickelson approves of McIlroy's comments
Mickelson approves of McIlroy's commentsAFP
Phil Mickelson (53) has welcomed Rory McIlroy's (34) new softened stance towards LIV Golf and says it is time to "let go" of "hostilities" between the rival camps.

Mickelson was one of the first players to switch from the PGA Tour to the Saudi-backed LIV in 2022 and has been one of the most prominent backers of the new series.

Northern Irishman McIlroy was in many ways his opposite number as a staunch defender of the US-based PGA Tour and a vocal critic of LIV.

But with golf's tours in talks over a framework agreement merging the PGA Tour and LIV's financial backers the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), McIlroy has struck a different tone.

In an interview with the podcast Stick to Football, McIlroy, who said in July that he would rather retire than play in LIV events, suggested that if the breakaway league was set up with its own window in the season, like cricket's Indian Premier League, he would consider playing in it.

McIlroy also said that LIV had "exposed some of the flaws in the structures of professional golf" and it was those words Mickelson highlighted on social media.

"This quote and the many others made... by Rory probably weren’t easy to say," said Mickelson in an post on X, formerly Twitter.

"Let's not use this as an opportunity to pile on. Rather, it's time for me and others to let go of our hostilities and work towards a positive future."

McIlroy's hardline stance on LIV began to thaw after he departed the PGA Tour Policy Board in November and particularly following Masters champion Jon Rahm's decision to join LIV last month.

McIlroy called for Europe's Ryder Cup qualification rules to be changed to ensure that the Spaniard can continue to play in the competition and notably didn't criticize Rahm's decision to accept a deal reportedly worth between $300million and $600million.

Mickelson said he believed that Rahm's switch had caused a shift in the overall mood.

"Rahm’s signing is turning into a bridge to bring both sides together, as evidenced by the many comments today and a month ago about changing the rules for the Ryder Cup so Jon and others can play, so let's use it as such," said the American, a six-time major winner.

"Until an agreement is reached it will be business as usual for both sides but hopefully without the needless disdain."

Negotiations between PGA and PIF officials have gone beyond an original December 2023 deadline and still no details have emerged about plans for what a unified PGA-LIV structure would feature even as the rivals plan separate 2024 seasons.

'A little judgmental'

McIlroy had talked in the past of a sense of "betrayal" at seeing his Ryder Cup European teammates switch to LIV and said some had been "duplicitous" in the way they handled the move.

But in the podcast interview, he said that approach had been a mistake.

"I think at this point, I was maybe a little judgmental of the guys who went to LIV golf at the start, and I think it was a bit of a mistake on my part because I now realize that not everyone is in my position or in Tiger Woods's position," he said.

"We all turn professionals to make a living playing the sports that we do, and I think that's what I realized over the last two years.

"I wouldn't say I've lost the fight against LIV, but I've just accepted the fact that this is part of our sport now."

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