8:14 AM ET

What started out as a typical Thursday morning for players, their caddies, coaches and agents, as they prepared for the start of last week's Genesis Invitational quickly turned into an unusual day.

The practice range at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles was calm as the field warmed up and 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 888-270-6611 The cellphones went off up and down the line. The Fire Pit Collective's Alan Shipnuck had just published quotes from Phil Mickelson about the proposed Saudi-financed Super Golf League being formed and his willingness to ignore the alleged human rights violations of its backers.

One prominent PGA Tour agent said there was a buzz on the range. It got everyone's attention.

Despite knowing the Saudis, who he called "scary motherf---ers", and that the country has a poor record on human rights, he said in his conversation with Shipnuck.

One player on the PGA Tour said that this was not just Phil being Phil. How do you come back from that?

Just five days later, everything changed for Phil, who apologized, lost at least two of his sponsors, and announced he was taking time away from golf to work on being the man he wants to be.

Although it doesn't look this way now, my actions throughout this process have always been with the best interest of golf, my peers, sponsors, and fans. I am deeply sorry for my choice of words, it was reckless and I offended people. I am beyond disappointed and will make every effort to learn from this.

A member of the management team didn't respond to the request for an interview, only releasing a statement on social media.

The apology said that he gave his sponsors the option of either pausing or getting out of their relationship because he doesn't want to compromise their business. The two sides mutually decided to part ways after he issued the statement. After that, Amstel Light followed.

The company said that they ended their partnership with Phil Mickelson.

Others, such as Callaway, have not commented on their relationship with him.

The statement never mentioned the PGA Tour, which he accused of being "obnoxious greed." Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player and now an outspoken analyst on Golf Channel, wrote this on the social networking site, "Just read Phil's statement, it sets the stage for him being a victim."

Before the comments about the rival league were made public, stars like Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and others had voiced their support for the tour. Tiger Woods, the most famous player of all time, who hasn't participated in an official event in more than a year while recovering from injuries he suffered in a car accident, also said he was sticking with the PGA Tour.

There is 4,300 hours of live coverage from 35 PGA TOUR tournaments each year. You can access replays, originals and more. You can stream on the internet.

On Sunday, two of the biggest names connected to the Saudi-backed tour were fronted by Greg Norman, and both made public statements committing to the PGA Tour. It was two more blows to the potential of the Saudi League.

I don't want to kick someone while he's down obviously, but I thought thatMickelson's comments were naive, selfish, egotistical, and ignorant. It was very disappointing. Sad. I am sure he is rethinking his position and where he goes from here.

Who is left? There is no one.

What happens to the Super Golf League, and what does the PGA Tour do with Phil? One of the defining moments of Lefty's career was when he became the oldest major champion in history at 50 years old. He has left fellow players dumbfounded, questioning his motives and willingness to overlook the sins of his money men.

The most damaging part was that he told Shipnuck that he had enlisted the help of three other players to help pay for the attorneys. He was helping to create a rival league. Lefty has not played in the past four tournaments on the tour and is taking a break. It's not clear if that is a voluntary break or a punishment handed down by the PGA Tour. The tour doesn't announce suspensions.

A Tour agent said that Phil is a polarizing figure and that a lot of guys couldn't care less about what Phil has to say. I think the statements that were attributed to Phil made people think that it can't be good, because Phil has been front and center at all of it.

The other players on the tour have been willing to pile on, even though McIlroy said he didn't want to kick the guy. Billy Horschel, a six-time PGA Tour winner and former FedEx Cup champion, took exception to the comments made by Phil Mickelson.

I don't see all the numbers that a player director may see in board meetings, but I see enough to know that the money is being used correctly and that the tour says it is.

There is 4,300 hours of live coverage from 35 PGA TOUR tournaments each year. You can access replays, originals and more. You can stream on the internet.

The master plan for the Saudi-financed league that had been gaining traction over the past several months might have been disrupted by the comments of Mickelson. The players were talking about its potential and money. A long time caddie on the PGA Tour said that players had signed on to join, to the point that things had progressed.

The Saudi government has listed the Public Investment Fund as worth more than $500 billion. The Asian Tour has already received $300 million from Norman's company. The Super Golf League would allow its players to earn official world golf ranking points and potentially compete in major golf tournaments.

Norman didn't want to be interviewed for the story.

Augusta National Golf Club and the United States Golf Association issued statements in support of the PGA Tour, but neither addressed whether players who compete outside the Tour would be allowed to play in the Masters and U.S. The CEO of the PGA of America told reporters last year that leaving the tour would make players ineligible for the PGA Championship.

If someone wants to play on the US team in the Ryder Cup, they will need to be a member of the PGA of America, and that membership will be obtained through being a member of the tour. To play in our championship, you have to be a member of the tour and the PGA of America.

Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, which oversees The Open, said the organization was fully supportive of the European and the PGA tours.

Those concerns might be over because of the comments of Mickelson. What was meant to be a super league that would lure some of the PGA Tour's biggest names and potentially their corporate sponsors with more money and a player-friendly experience was suddenly thrown a roadblock by what he said and his very public admission of what joining the league actually meant.

The Saudi League went from gaining steam to the point that sources believed an announcement about the league&s creation was imminent, and that the brakes would be put on it in a matter of weeks.

Some Tour players believe that the league will somehow find a way to slow down.

I think it will keep going. I think there will be some discussion. Everyone talks about money. They can just double up and they will figure it out, according to the golfer. They will get their guys. Someone will sell out and go to it.

Money is the reason. From the beginning, the figures were too large for the players to ignore. The build up to get here was a long time coming and the downfall came quickly.

The money started talking

Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman were aligned in pushing for a Saudi-backed league to challenge the PGA Tour. Luke Walker/Getty Images

Tour players who spoke with ESPN said that there were whispers about a new league as far back as five years ago. The possibility would pass in the wind and never come true.

The way these guys have operated has been smoke and mirrors and they have spread rumors and tried to play one guy off another.

Because Norman and his company hadn't announced their plans publicly, and their talks with PGA Tour players and their agents were being conducted behind closed doors, Tour executives felt as though they didn't know what they were fighting against. There were reports in Europe that the Saudi organizers had offered DeChambeau as much as $135 million to sign on, and perhaps even more to Johnson, a two-time major champion. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Ian Poulter was offered $30 million to leave the European Tour.

The Players Championship seemed strong in March last year. I can remember a few big-name guys coming in and talking to the commissioner about what they had heard. It seems like something that people need to be worried about.

There was a shift in how the new circuit was being talked about, the infrastructure of the potential league had an actual plan.

The chatter went quiet in the fall of 2021. The players interested in joining the Saudi league were talking in private about their potential deals and how they would work if they left.

In recent months, there were conversations that were secret. The Saudi International tournament at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia, was the site of handshake deals being made, according to one source.

Guys have signed and are going to do it. The caddie said that they had not heard of that before, but that the guys were treated well and the league was talked about. The PGA Tour cannot match some of the numbers that I know. What do you want? What are you looking for?

As many as 20 Tour players have committed to join Norman's circuit and an announcement about the new league could come as early as next month at The Players Championship. It was more likely that the announcement would come after the Masters in April, according to sources. Without most of the sport's top young players, how much of a threat was the SGL going to be?

The epicenter of the professional world still revolves around Tiger, and if they don't put the right leadership team in from the start, he is. Jon Rahm is the best player in the world, and I am the second best player in the world.

In November, Woods spoke out in support of the tour. He has a cachet that Mickelson does not. The players took into account what Woods had to say about the league.

Pat Perez told reporters last week that he and other players on the Tour would follow Woods in his opinion.

If Woods doesn't want to do it,Rory doesn't want to do it and if you don't have the top kids doing it, I don't know how much water it is. You need the young crew to do this.

I don't know why Phil hates the Tour. He is near 52 now.

Some players, such as Australia's Adam Scott and England's Lee Westwood, have acknowledged being intrigued by the SGL's shorter schedule. Westwood told the media that he had signed a non-disclosure agreement and was unsure if he could answer questions about the league or other players. He is not alone. The Saudi group has signed confidentiality agreements with other players.

The new circuit will only have 14 tournaments, each consisting of 54 holes, as opposed to the 72 holes on the Tour, according to a player. Many of the events would be played in the U.S., according to The Washington Post.

The Saudi league would have shotgun starts, meaning all the players would start at the same time. The Tour has specific tee times for its players, with some groups going out in the morning and others in the afternoon over the first two rounds. The third and fourth rounds are when groups are grouped. The early-round tee times impact the outcome of a tournament if the weather changes or the conditions change, which is why the shotgun start is appealing.

There could be team ownership stakes for players who jump to the Saudi-backed circuit, similar to how Formula 1 works, according to a source. There would be a team aspect to the new league, as players would be competing for a certain amount of money. There would be 48 players divided among the teams. Each team has an owner, whether it is a player, corporation or outside entity. The owner of the team would be able to sell sponsorships. Free agency and trades could also be part of the format.

The caddie said that if someone is not playing well and is in the elite team, a young kid could lose his spot.

The Saudi-backed circuit seems to be missing the stars it hoped to put at the top of each team. Their efforts to sign top players were not made any easier by the statement from Mickelson.

'I don't know what Phil's doing'

Dustin Johnson was one of the big names linked to the Saudi Golf League. AP Photo/John Minchillo

In November, as Shipnuck, a former golf writer with Sports Illustrated, was finishing up writing an unauthorized biography, Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) He received a text message from Mickelson, who refused to sit down for an interview for the book.

According to the Fire Pit Collective website, Shipnuck recalled a text conversation between Mickelson and him, in which he talked about the NFTs, media rights and the PGA Tour. According to Shipnuck, the two set up a call, and that Mickelson never said their conversation was off the record.

The interview is with a biographer, according to Shipnuck. That is not even in question.

The Saudi Arabians were frightening to deal with.

It's... They have a horrible record on human rights, and they execute people for being gay. Why would I consider it if I knew all of this? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change how the PGA Tour operates.

The backlash by other Tour players was immediate. The Tour wouldn't comment.

Perez said he didn't know what Phil was doing. I don't care what he has to say about anything because I don't speak for him. He does not speak for me.

I was shocked, in disbelief. For the last 32 years, Phil has always said and done the right thing. I don't want to pretend I know where his entitlement comes from. I don't want to go into that. It made me sad. I am in shock and disbelief by what he said and completely and utterly disagrees, I think it is a shame.

The author said he received one text message from the man.

He was upset, and he tried to go down that road. His heart was not really in it. He knows what's true. I don't know what he will say in the future. He knows that this was an on-the-record conversation and it was for the book, and he never asked for it to be private.

During the phone conversation with Shipnuck, Mickelson admitted that he wasn't sure if he wanted to be a part of the league. He said that Mickelson was more interested in the opportunity it presented.

The idea of the Saudi-financed league is allowing us to get things done with the tour.

The situation had changed a few days after the comments were made public. The threat to the tour did not just go away the second time around.

The end of one league and changes to the existing?

Pat Perez made his position clear: "I don't know what Phil's doing." Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire

The Tour can ignore what happened because some of the golf's biggest stars aren't leaving. Changes and a new chapter for the PGA Tour could be the result of that. Changes to the financial structure and more transparency are what players still want. Some of the changes the Saudi League would bring are still intriguing to a few.

Rickie Fowler told reporters on Wednesday that he still believes the PGA Tour is the best place for him, but he also understands the idea that competition could be healthy for both sides.

Fowler said that if everything goes the right way, everyone will come out better. Whatever it is, it goes through sport, business, tours. I hope that we can all end up in a better place in the future if everything continues to head the right way.

The Tour players and caddies want a response that shows the Tour is adjusting to their needs and wants, and Fowler mentioned he has spoken with Monahan about changes he would like to see.

The caddie said that they were all very curious. The Tour is going to respond the only way they can. They need to come back hard. If not, the product is very heavy and they won't let that happen.

The Tour made it clear that players who leave for a rival league will be dealt with harshly. During meetings with players in California last week and Florida this week, the Tour reiterated its stance. According to the Associated Press, the Saudi league will lose a player's PGA Tour Membership if they sign up for it.

In a telephone interview with the AP on Wednesday, Monahan said that he told the players to move on and that anyone on the fence needed to make a decision.

Every year, Tour players sign an agreement that states they are required to get written permission to play in an event opposite of a PGA Tour event. The new league would result in a suspension from the PGA Tour if there was a violation of the contract.

The tour caddie said that the Tour is probably smart enough not to do a lifetime suspension. If you were more, I could provide for my family and a year into it, I made a mistake and it will probably be shorter.

The threat of a suspension or losing an opportunity to come back to the Tour seems to have prevented some from defecting.

You need the stars to make it work. Guys might say, "Well wait a minute, maybe I'll go over there and play for those big purses" if they know lesser names are making huge amounts of money. The broadcasters are going to want to have some star power to justify the investment.

The Tour has a renewed opportunity to gain solidarity and trust from its players since the Saudi League faces an uphill battle.

The Saudi League helped push the Tour to adapt by adding the Player Impact Program, which divvies up $50 million to the top 10 players who bring the most attention to the game based on a set of criteria. The Tour increased the purse of the Players Championship from 15 million to 20 million dollars and added bonuses for players who make at least 15 tour starts. The FedEx Cup bonus pool went from $60 million to $75 million, with the winner taking home $18 million.

It only rewards the top players and the most popular on social media. Perez believes the money could be better used in purses or guaranteed money for everyone on the tour.

He suggested that Tour players should start out with $250,000 of guaranteed money to help with expenses and missed cuts where no money is earned after a week of work and travel. He is concerned about the players who are spending more money than they are earning, who are not in the top of the earnings list.

Guys are missing cuts. A friend of mine made $22,000 on the Tour. He was in the hole and lost. He was out 90 grand that year because he earned his card. That is hard to do. You are playing at the top. The problem is the top guys are making so much money that they don't really care if they get another or not.

The money goes into a minor league for players before they get theirPGA Tour card, according to some suggestions. A player who makes the cut but finishes last on the tour could make $4,000 for the week.

A player on the Korn Ferry Tour can easily break even on a weekly basis after all expenses are taken into account. The Tour approved purse increases for 2022, but there is still more that could be done to help those outside the top money lists.

Sources said that the Tour had internal discussions with players about improvements and decisions going forward. The wraparound schedule would be replaced with a calendar year lineup that would include a team-based series of three events for the top 50 players in the FedEx Cup, which would be played in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The status of players outside the top 50 would be determined by the fall events. According to a source, the players werelukewarm during the meeting in California last week.

Some players want to take a break from the year-round schedule and skip events in the fall in order to get in better shape for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The overseas team events would alleviate some of the concerns of the tour's best players, who believe they are entitled to a larger piece of the pie than lesser accomplished players.

A Tour agent said that the average fan doesn't know how much a player spends. It is a very lucrative sport, but it is also very expensive for the athletes, like team-sport athletes who are flown around every place and supplied all those things.

The Tour is listening to the argument that the very top guys who drive the bus should be getting a bigger piece of the pie.

The players seem to think that the tour is willing to make changes.

I may be fortunate that I have been more involved in the inner workings of the Tour and have a good relationship with the leadership team. Every time I walk out of a meeting or interaction with them, I am always very confident that the Tour is headed in the right direction. We all want to play against the best players in the world and they are certainly two of the best players in the world and it is nice to know that they are committed to playing here and making this the best tour in the world.

For the first time, the Tour has disclosed last year's budget to its players. The budget was sent to each player to show where the money was going, which is one of the reasons why some of the Tour players didn't like what Phil Mickelson had to say.

There is a willingness to adapt, even though not everyone is happy, and significant change still needs to happen. The Saudi League may or may not see success, but the PGA Tour is going to do everything it can to make sure it remains the premier golf league in the world.

The Saudi League isn't folding, but what Phil said might have helped the Tour in its effort to stay at the top. Norman, LIV and the Saudi group poured money into the endeavor and it is still attractive to some.

The staying power of what the PGA Tour has built was revealed when the big names pulled back from the splinter league.

The future of the Saudi League will be dependent on how the league adjusts, how happy it keeps players and what the product looks like going forward.

The caddie said that the Saudi League has had an impact on the tour and that it was time for it to go away. I think we will start to see a little bit of this concept.