What was once a battle of words in press conferences between players has quite rapidly devolved into spouting matches online. Yes, we’re talking about what is now a year-long debate topic: the merits of LIV Golf, its battle with the PGA Tour, the hidden inspirations behind decisions and obviously much more.
This week, that battle looks something like this: Claude Harmon vs. media and Brandel Chamblee vs. Claude Harmon and Phil Mickelson vs. Brandel Chamblee and everyone vs. the Twitter Block function.
It begins with Harmon, Brooks Koepka’s coach, railing against golf media coverage of LIV golfers during interviews with Golfweek before and after Koepka’s final round at the PGA Championship. Koepka won, making him the first LIV golfer to win a major championship, putting to bed for some the idea that leaving the PGA Tour would mean LIV commits wouldn’t be able to compete with PGA Tour stars anymore.
Koepka hasn’t been alone in that chase, of course. Mickelson tied for second at the Masters in April. Patrick Reed finished tied for fourth. Bryson DeChambeau then tied for fourth last week in Rochester. It’s true: LIV’s highest-priced assets are now playing like it, after some of them struggled mightily in 2022. Harmon was keen to point that out, and in the process tore into Brandel Chamblee, calling him a “paid actor” and criticizing Chamblee’s viewpoints on LIV Golf being a “sportswashing” entity for Saudi Arabia.
There is always room for a rebuttal online. We’ve learned that more than ever this week.
Chamblee took to Twitter and spent more than 500 words explaining why he speaks for himself, doubling down on his opinions on Saudi Arabia. “To raise the question whether LIV has been good for the PGA Tour is to miss the very human and most important point of the whole issue of sportswashing.” Chamblee wrote. “It is bad for the people who continue to be oppressed by the man who funds LIV Golf. And as I have said many times, like the pollution that hangs over our biggest cities, its darkness is better seen from a distance and its stench is too easily dismissed as the smell of commerce. It poisons and dulls our sensibilities making it easy to forget that many a bad movement owes its greater success to the apathy of conformism.”
That’s where Chamblee stands. It’s where he hangs his hat on this debate. It’s not a new opinion, either. Chamblee has been decrying golf’s involvement with Saudi Arabia, at large, for years. But the wake of Koepka’s win has chummed the waters once again, particularly on Twitter.
If Phil Mickelson has been clear about one thing in the last 12 months, it’s this: he would rather not talk at length or in detail about the PGA Tour, its lawsuits with LIV Golf, the Department of Justice investigation into anticompetitive practices or the many of the other controversial aspects of pro golf’s civil war. He has elected to participate in limited doses with press opportunities at major championships and has only spoken four times at LIV events in 2023.
That, of course, is all completely his right. But then, as we’ve seen many times in 2023, he logs on to Twitter, frequently engaging with discourse about LIV, the PGA Tour, ratings and the idea of sportswashing. Chamblee’s statement was on a platter and Mickelson couldn’t resist.
“This guy,” Mickelson wrote Wednesday, with a face-palm emoji. “His network covers Russia and China Olympics. His PGA Tour funds an ENTIRE Tour in China. ‘You. Cannot. Be. Serious?.’ John McEnroe”
Now would be the time where we at GOLF.com remind the reader: Do your own research. Just because NBC owned the broadcasting rights to the Olympics held in Russia and China — two other countries accused of sportswashing — doesn’t equate what LIV Golf means to Saudi Arabia. Just because Chamblee calls LIV Golf a sportswashing enterprise doesn’t mean it necessarily is. A lot of this stuff is more grey than it is black and white.
“Poor Brandel,” Mickelson wrote in another tweet, this time on Thursday.
“He can rip apart me and countless others but as soon as someone shoes his ignorance he can’t handle it. He’s softer now than he was as a player.”
It was right about here when we realized that Mickelson and Chamblee had both blocked each other on Twitter. Mickelson was replying not to Chamblee’s original tweet, but rather a Golfweek synopsis of it. Chamblee responded, not to Mickelson’s tweet, but to a tweet from another account tagging both of them and calling Chamblee “a tool”.
“Phil is welcome to come on the Live From set at the U.S. Open to discuss the merits of playing for start MFers, as he called them,” Chamblee said, “and the Billy Walters book that comes out August 22… but my guess he’s too soft to come on and debate.”
Baked into that response from Chamblee are the incendiary comments that Mickelson made in a biography published in 2022, where he called the Saudi financiers of LIV Golf “scary motherf—–s”, as well as a reference to an upcoming book from sports gambler, Billy Walters, which is expected to detail some of his gambling relationship with Mickelson.
Mickelson would respond later, with a screenshot showing he was blocked by Chamblee. Chamblee would respond later with screenshots that he had been blocked by Mickelson. It’s a funny, though petty, dance to publicly show just how little one is interested in hearing from the other. And in the end, as with many of the LIV Golf-PGA Tour-Sportswashing-Guaranteed Money debates in the last 12 months, golf fans watch on likely less sure of progress than when they began tuning in.
Where, exactly, does this discourse lead us? Perhaps to a slightly better understanding of each. Mickelson tees off in D.C. at the next LIV Golf event Friday afternoon.
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