Four years after golf took over Black Friday sports with the inaugural version of The Match, one of the founders of the franchise is officially no longer part of the proceedings.

Phil Mickelson, who helped launch the entire venture and played in the first exhibition against Tiger Woods, is no longer affiliated with The Match after his defection to LIV Golf. That’s according to Match producer Bryan Zuriff in this Sports Illustrated report from Gabrielle Herzig.

The reasoning is unsurprising, and has much more to do with business realities than any sort of moralizing or canceling. LIV Golf aggressively positioned itself as a competitor to the PGA Tour, from hiring Greg Norman as CEO on through poaching top talent.

But with The Match set to return in a few weeks (in an event featuring Tiger, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas), Zuriff decided to offer some clarity as to the current situation with Mickelson, who would undoubtedly remain a draw for the format. (Which could still be improved.)

“Phil was a phenomenal partner and he helped build this thing,” Zuriff told Sports Illustrated. “He was really good in this show. But he chose an opportunity and has taken a different path. Our show lives on because people like it.”

“Look, we’re in business with the PGA Tour,” Zuriff continued. “We’re basically a PGA Tour event. Maybe one day, LIV will figure out their stuff. Then I’ll work with whomever is appropriate.”

This remains the issue, of course. Other LIV players like Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka are also alumni of The Match, and would also still qualify as potential candidates based on name recognition. But at the moment, given The Match’s relationship with the PGA Tour, that’s not going to happen.

Could it? Of course. LIV and the PGA Tour might not always have this level of contentiousness, although that day isn’t coming any time soon. LIV folding completely at some point in the next few years feels as likely as that happening. The PGA Tour giving up their sanctioning/relationship with The Match could also happen.

That said, the people at The Match still have Tiger Woods involved, and that remains the most important aspect of all this.

Woods has remained loyal to the PGA Tour, and the top younger players still look up to him in ways they very much do not view Mickelson and Norman. For any golf exhibition looking to draw casual fans as a broadcast property, having Tiger on board still trumps everything else, no matter how many headlines Mickelson grabs for various reasons.

[Sports Illustrated]

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.