Lefty's London pro-am included PANICKED fore shout to high-ranking Saudi exec!

GolfMagic followed Phil Mickelson during the pro-am at LIV Golf London and his exchanges with Yasir Al-Rumayyan were fascinating.

Ben Smith's picture
Thu, 6 Jul 2023
Lefty's London pro-am included PANICKED fore shout to high-ranking Saudi exec!

"His Excellency has just joined the group in front, so I'll guess we'll hang back a bit," Phil Mickelson says on the fourth tee box at Centurion Club during the LIV Golf London pro-am. 

Mickelson is referring to Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who is considered to be the mastermind behind the LIV Golf League

Al-Rumayyan is likely one of the busiest men on the planet. He wears many, many hats. 

To the uninitiated, the 53-year-old is the governor of Saudi Arabia's vast sovereign wealth fund, the PIF, and is the chairman of oil company Saudi Aramco as well as football sides Newcastle United and Al-Hilal.  

He also sits as a board member of Uber Technologies Inc, SoftBank Group and Reliance Limited. 

According to the Athletic, his rise to becoming a close confidante of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is absolutely unprecedented given that he was an anonymous banker from the provinces. 

The point of telling you this in that in these parts, Al-Rumayyan is a powerful, powerful man who commands respect and Mickelson knows it. 

Mickelson turns to his brother and caddie, Tim, and talks about eventually hitting a chippy cut with his driver down the fairway. 

Last year, he had difficulty with the fairway bunker on the right side of the hole, he says.

It's strange to think Mickelson can even remember particular shots at this venue 12 months ago.

It was on 8 June in 2022 that Mickelson, in this writer's opinion, squirmed through one of the most uncomfortable news conferences in the history of men's professional golf. 

He was making his return to the game having been in a four-month, self-imposed exile after inflammatory comments about working with the likes of Al-Rumayyan to start a rival golf league were made public. 

Long-time sponsors deserted him. Callaway, you might recall, paused their contract with him. 

It seemed Mickelson was hell bent on the idea of changing the PGA Tour and how it operates. 

Mickelson had been the darling of American golf since the early 1990s. He faced the media less than 24 hours after details of his LIV Golf contract were leaked. Mickelson all but confirmed his deal was worth $200m. 

Social media was ablaze with hostile comments aimed at Mickelson and his choices. Only a matter of months before he defied belief to claim the PGA Championship at aged 50. 

The landscape in professional golf has changed considerably since then. It has been suggested by some that Mickelson 'was right all along' after various, huge changes were made by the PGA Tour amid the rival golf league with cash to burn until the end of time. 

The North American circuit, fronted by Jay Monahan, upped their prize purses to try and rival LIV. A social media popularity contest was created, known as the player impact program. 

Rory McIlroy came out swinging. Tiger Woods also stepped up to bat. A PR battle was waged. 

Monahan attracted criticism at the 2022 Canadian Open, accused of trying to emotionally blackmail the PGA Tour membership. 

When was the last time you had to apologise for being a member of the PGA Tour, he asked. 

But faced with expensive litigation with absolutely no end in sight, Monahan relented, thanks to high-ranking PGA Tour exec Jimmy Dunne reaching out to Al-Rumayyan via WhatsApp. 

What now? 

Up on the fourth green at Centurion and Al-Rumayyan is putting out with Kevin Na's group. 

Once each player has tapped in, Al-Rumayyan shakes hands with the group and poses for a picture. He gestures for an aide's attention before slowly walking over to a path taking you to the next tee box. 

A volunteer shakes his hand and tells him what a wonderful event LIV put on in 2022 and this year. 

Mickelson's group have now caught up and are playing their approach shots into the green. 


I'm not sure who played the shot, but it had Al-Rumayyan ducking for cover. Yikes. "We'll use you as a human shield," I overheard Al-Rumayyan say to a volunteer in a golf cart, laughing. 

Only a matter of minutes earlier Mickelson had suggested the group hang back. Now said group are shouting fore in HE's direction. 

Al-Rumayyan makes his way over to the group and Mickelson takes off his cap. "It's good to see you again," I hear Mickelson say from just off the fairway. 

One of the players in Mickelson's group was none other than Dr Pawan Munjal.

That name might been nothing to you, but the Indian billionaire is the CEO of Hero MotorCorp (the title sponsor of Woods' annual PGA Tour event in the Bahamas). 


Munjal is an avid golfer and is carrying the group thus far. 

HE decides to play the next hole with Phil. I overhear the two talking about the pair of trainers Al-Rumayyan is wearing. Phil was digging the G-Fores. 

Another topic of conversation was holiday destinations. 

One of the things I noticed about Al-Rumayyan was his meticulousness. He grips the club with his right hand and steps into the address position (making sure his body is open and not closed to the target). 

He neither dawdles nor rushes. 

One fluid practice swing was taken but something wasn't right and he stepped away. 

After the same routine, he finally struck the golf ball but yanked it left and into the bunker guarding the green on the short par-3. 

Mickelson put his close but couldn't make the putt. Dr Munjal? He stiffed his then promptly rolled in his birdie putt.

Al-Rumayyan decided he had had enough and opted not to play his bunker shot, but continued to chat with Phil. 

After they played the hole Mickelson, once again, took off his cap and shook Al-Rumayyan's hand before the two parted ways.

Their exchange was brief, but fascinating nonetheless. I am not sure what the future holds for Mickelson and professional golf from here.

But I'll definitely be an interested observer.

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