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golf wars It was joyful to see Rory McIlroy take down Phil Mickelson and golf’s dirty money league

McIlroy’s weather bomb of innate decency and undisguised disgust that took down golf’s dirty money Super League.

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Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson on course

Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson on course

Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson on course

Yes, it was a glorious Irish gust of fresh air – Storm Rory more powerful than Dudley, Eunice and Franklin combined - that floored the grubby counting house where Phil Mickelson was hosting his amoral, tone-deaf seminar on selfishness.

The joy though is not simply that it was Rory McIlroy’s weather bomb of innate decency and undisguised disgust that took down golf’s dirty money Super League.

It is that it left Mickelson, a man whose recent comments lend weight to the argument that he plays the game of avarice off scratch, cowering, alone and brutally exposed in his jewel-encrusted House of Saud desert bolthole.

Lefty, with his toothy, all-American, Mom’s apple pie grin, projects an image of propriety and good manners.

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Phil Mickelson in action during the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia earlier this month. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson in action during the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia earlier this month. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson in action during the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia earlier this month. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

Yet, as his 2014 Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson can attest, Mickelson has a track record of unapologetic disloyalty.

Phil illustrated that the concept of team spirit had completely passed him by when he savaged the great Kansan in an ill-judged attack-dog ambush even as Watson sat broken at his shoulder in the Gleneagles press room in the aftermath of a Paul McGinley-led European victory eight years ago.

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Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Mickelson essentially identified Watson as the source of defeat. Then, as an exclamation mark to his repudiation of the ‘one for all’ mantra, he ignored the team charter to fly home alone on his own $40m Gulfstream jet.

Sport has known few such brazen Et tu, Brute betrayals.

Yet even if that tactless, self-serving backstabbing hinted at an athlete high on the fumes of his own self-importance, it hardly prepared us for the howitzer shell Mickelson dropped last week.

One that would ultimately splinter his own reputation and demolish the breakaway Saudi plans he was openly championing as golf’s dollar-lined future.

Mickelson's comments were such an affront to right-thinking that McIlroy felt compelled to place the six-time major winner’s argument on a tee and blast it deep into the Arabian gulf.

Rory described his rival's words as “naïve, selfish, egotistical, ignorant”.

Even the notoriously self-absorbed Bryson De Chambeau realised Mickelson had hit he self-destruct button and promptly deployed the ejector seat in mid-flight of his own defection to the Saudi rebels’ side.

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What did Phil say? The shock – before you considered his back catalogue - was that a man of such delicate golfing touch could shank his attempt at justifying undeniably shady ethics so far out of bounds.

Distilled down to its essence Mickelson announced: ‘Yeah, the Saudi regime is homophobic and chopped a journalist critical of their regime to pieces, but they are offering me more money, so I’m with them.’

Even an athlete so blissfully untouched by his own absence of perspective couldn’t possibly have presented such a foul, contaminated, nakedly contemptuous thesis, could he?

Do the members at Augusta National wear green?

Here, from a forthcoming biography, are Mickelson’s exact words on the men behind the Saudi breakaway tour.

“They are scary motherf*****s to get involved with.

“We know they killed (Washington Post columnist, Jamal) Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay.

“Knowing all this why would I consider it? Because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”

As a pummelling of basic decency it could hardly have been any more brazen had he repeatedly struck the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights with any of the steel-shafted wedges with which he conjures his signature magic around the greens.

Some perspective here. Phil is a rung or two above the breadline. He is hardly in urgent need of a pay rise.

The PGA Tour he accused in another interview of “obnoxious greed” is the same one that has facilitated the 51-year-old in accumulating an estimated net worth of eight hundred million dollars (some $100m of that from prize money on his home tour, upwards of half a billion in related sponsorship deals).

Yet, devoid of even a golf ball dimensioned-blob of shame, Phil was happy to sell his morality for a few dollars more.

It is not the first time the thermometer of Mickelson’s self-awareness has plunged to sub-zero numbers.

In 2013 he announced his intention to move out of California, citing the state’s high tax rate, saying: “There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state and, you know, it doesn’t work for me right now.”

Mickelson is a thrilling, fearless golfing talent, one who executes shots that could others could even concede, works of art like the immortal six iron from the pine straw at 13 to set up victory at The Masters 12 years ago.

But the same gambler’s instinct that facilitated such a moment of transcendence backfired spectacularly this time.

Mickelson took a punt that his unconscionable argument would yield a spectacular financial dividend.

But then in golf’s Super League moment, McIlroy accepted the role of Gary Neville and left Phil holding a beaten docket and a battered, probably irretrievable reputation.

Mickelson, abandoned by his peers, alone with his avarice, was deafened as Rory led a paraphrased version of American golf’s most annoying chant.

It was the one that urged Phil to “get (crawl) in the hole” his crass accountancy had excavated in the Saudi desert.

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