Phil Mickelson says he “said and did a lot of things that I regret” as he grilled about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record ahead of the LIV Golf series tee-off

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Phil Mickelson says he "said and did a lot of things that I regret" as he grilled about Saudi Arabia's human rights record ahead of the LIV Golf series tee-off

The six-time major winner was quoted in a 2021 interview with author Alan Shipnuck for his forthcoming book, Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar, as saying he would consider to join the proposal Super League because it’s a “unique opportunity to reshape the way the PGA Tour works.”

Shipnuck quoted Mickelson as making derogatory remarks about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and claiming that the kingdom had killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mickelson looks on during a press conference at the Centurion Club.

The LIV Golf series is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the man named in a US intelligence report as responsible for approving the operation led to the murder of Khashoggi in 2018. Bin Salman has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.

Mickelson said in February he would be “taking some time off” from golf after being criticized for his comments. He subsequently lost several sponsors over the controversy and tweeted a statement on Monday apologizing for his earlier comments.

In his opening statement at Wednesday’s press conference, Mickelson expressed remorse when asked about the human rights record of the country that financed the company.

“Well, certainly I’ve done, said and done a lot of things that I regret, and I’m sorry for that and the pain it’s caused a lot of people,” he said during an often tense press conference.

“I do not condone human rights violations at all. I don’t think so – nobody here in the whole world does. I’m certainly aware of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi and I find it horrible.

“I’ve also seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history and I believe LIV Golf will do a lot of good for the game as well. And I’m excited for this opportunity. That’s why I’m here.”

His appearance at Centurion Club is his first on the golf course in almost four months – he missed the Masters this year for the first time in 28 years. However, the American said he’s had a “great time” away from the sport, which he spent skiing and with his family.

However, the issue of Saudi Arabia and sportswear was clearly one for Mickelson to ponder during his break from the Gulf.

The long pauses before answering questions about the moral dilemma of playing on such a tour suggested a man was choosing his words carefully.

Mickelson repeatedly gave a similar answer. “I don’t condone human rights violations at all,” he said repeatedly.

Mickelson speaks alongside Justin Harding and Chase Koepka in a press conference.

The future

Players’ decision to play in the LIV Golf series comes with a multitude of questions.

A key question was whether their commitment to this new tour will affect their ability to perform at other golf tournaments – particularly the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.

Most recently, the PGA Tour threatened “disciplinary action” against PGA Tour golfers participating in the new Saudi-backed series.

Two-time Major winner Dustin Johnson and longtime PGA Tour player Kevin Na have retired from the PGA Tour to compete in the LIV golf event. It means Johnson is no longer qualified for the Ryder Cup, although the US Open announced on Wednesday that players could play at the upcoming Major.

When asked about his future on the PGA Tour on Wednesday, and specifically whether he had been suspended for joining the new venture, Mickelson – who is eligible to play on the PGA Tour for life – refused to confirm or deny, choosing instead for this, hold his cards close to his chest.

“I’m learning lessons,” said Mickelson – who said he will be playing at the US Open this month. “I would speak publicly on a PGA Tour matter, which I currently do not do.

“I have enjoyed my time on the PGA Tour and have strong opinions about what could and should be done much better, but I will endeavor to have these conversations behind closed doors.

“I don’t want to give up (my lifetime membership on the PGA Tour). I don’t think I should do that. I don’t know what that means for the future, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’ve earned it and I’m not going to give it up easily.”

Mickelson looks ahead to the LIV Golf series.

Although some established PGA Tour pros have criticized players’ decision to join the new league, multiple Tour winners Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have chosen to describe themselves as “global golfers” and “independent contractors,” respectively.

In addition to the huge prize fund, one of Mickelson’s stated reasons for playing in the LIV series is the better work-life balance.

And even his recent hiatus, he said, made him see how his life could be improved.

“I’ve played a lot of golf over the years and when I finally retired and took a break I realized I needed a little bit, I think, better balance; I’ve said it a couple of times,” he said.

“I just needed a little bit more balance on and off the course and this gives me a chance to bring golf back into my life but still do the things I wanted to do off the course, be it travel or time spend with people who are important to me.

“I went to a couple of my nephews’ little league games. I haven’t had a chance to do that in my entire life. I went to my niece’s lacrosse games. I didn’t have the opportunity. It’s given me opportunities, as I said, to have better balance on and off the golf course.”

Mickelson looks on during a press conference.

What is the LIV Golf series?

The LIV Golf Series is a new tour organized by LIV Golf Investments, consisting of eight events around the world starting in London on Thursday.

Led by former World No. 1 Greg Norman, the team-based series will run from June to October with the aim of “holistically improving the health of professional golf on a global scale to help unlock the untapped potential of the sport. “

PIF has pledged to award a total of $250 million in prize money. Each of the first seven events has a total prize pool of $25 million, with $20 million split between each player and the remaining $5 million split between the top three teams at the end of each week.

Before the first event in London, the 12 teams and their captain were announced. On Tuesday, the captains selected the rest of their teams in a draft format similar to the NFL and NBA drafts.

A general view of golfers practicing on the putting green at Centurion Club ahead of the LIV Golf Series.

Unlike typical golf events, the London event is stretched over three days instead of four, with the 48-man field starting with a shotgun start – all at the same time – hoping to be a more engaging, action-packed event.

In a traditional stroke play format, the lowest score wins.

While the first two rounds count the top two scores for each team, the final round counts the top three scores, with the team with the lowest total score after 54 holes being declared the team winner.

For the final event – a team championship – the format changes to a four-round matchplay KO tournament.

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Phil Mickelson says he “said and did a lot of things that I regret” as he grilled about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record ahead of the LIV Golf series tee-off

Advertisement

Phil Mickelson says he "said and did a lot of things that I regret" as he grilled about Saudi Arabia's human rights record ahead of the LIV Golf series tee-off

The six-time major winner was quoted in a 2021 interview with author Alan Shipnuck for his forthcoming book, Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar, as saying he would consider to join the proposal Super League because it’s a “unique opportunity to reshape the way the PGA Tour works.”

Shipnuck quoted Mickelson as making derogatory remarks about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and claiming that the kingdom had killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mickelson looks on during a press conference at the Centurion Club.

The LIV Golf series is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the man named in a US intelligence report as responsible for approving the operation led to the murder of Khashoggi in 2018. Bin Salman has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.

Mickelson said in February he would be “taking some time off” from golf after being criticized for his comments. He subsequently lost several sponsors over the controversy and tweeted a statement on Monday apologizing for his earlier comments.

In his opening statement at Wednesday’s press conference, Mickelson expressed remorse when asked about the human rights record of the country that financed the company.

“Well, certainly I’ve done, said and done a lot of things that I regret, and I’m sorry for that and the pain it’s caused a lot of people,” he said during an often tense press conference.

“I do not condone human rights violations at all. I don’t think so – nobody here in the whole world does. I’m certainly aware of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi and I find it horrible.

“I’ve also seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history and I believe LIV Golf will do a lot of good for the game as well. And I’m excited for this opportunity. That’s why I’m here.”

His appearance at Centurion Club is his first on the golf course in almost four months – he missed the Masters this year for the first time in 28 years. However, the American said he’s had a “great time” away from the sport, which he spent skiing and with his family.

However, the issue of Saudi Arabia and sportswear was clearly one for Mickelson to ponder during his break from the Gulf.

The long pauses before answering questions about the moral dilemma of playing on such a tour suggested a man was choosing his words carefully.

Mickelson repeatedly gave a similar answer. “I don’t condone human rights violations at all,” he said repeatedly.

Mickelson speaks alongside Justin Harding and Chase Koepka in a press conference.

The future

Players’ decision to play in the LIV Golf series comes with a multitude of questions.

A key question was whether their commitment to this new tour will affect their ability to perform at other golf tournaments – particularly the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.

Most recently, the PGA Tour threatened “disciplinary action” against PGA Tour golfers participating in the new Saudi-backed series.

Two-time Major winner Dustin Johnson and longtime PGA Tour player Kevin Na have retired from the PGA Tour to compete in the LIV golf event. It means Johnson is no longer qualified for the Ryder Cup, although the US Open announced on Wednesday that players could play at the upcoming Major.

When asked about his future on the PGA Tour on Wednesday, and specifically whether he had been suspended for joining the new venture, Mickelson – who is eligible to play on the PGA Tour for life – refused to confirm or deny, choosing instead for this, hold his cards close to his chest.

“I’m learning lessons,” said Mickelson – who said he will be playing at the US Open this month. “I would speak publicly on a PGA Tour matter, which I currently do not do.

“I have enjoyed my time on the PGA Tour and have strong opinions about what could and should be done much better, but I will endeavor to have these conversations behind closed doors.

“I don’t want to give up (my lifetime membership on the PGA Tour). I don’t think I should do that. I don’t know what that means for the future, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’ve earned it and I’m not going to give it up easily.”

Mickelson looks ahead to the LIV Golf series.

Although some established PGA Tour pros have criticized players’ decision to join the new league, multiple Tour winners Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have chosen to describe themselves as “global golfers” and “independent contractors,” respectively.

In addition to the huge prize fund, one of Mickelson’s stated reasons for playing in the LIV series is the better work-life balance.

And even his recent hiatus, he said, made him see how his life could be improved.

“I’ve played a lot of golf over the years and when I finally retired and took a break I realized I needed a little bit, I think, better balance; I’ve said it a couple of times,” he said.

“I just needed a little bit more balance on and off the course and this gives me a chance to bring golf back into my life but still do the things I wanted to do off the course, be it travel or time spend with people who are important to me.

“I went to a couple of my nephews’ little league games. I haven’t had a chance to do that in my entire life. I went to my niece’s lacrosse games. I didn’t have the opportunity. It’s given me opportunities, as I said, to have better balance on and off the golf course.”

Mickelson looks on during a press conference.

What is the LIV Golf series?

The LIV Golf Series is a new tour organized by LIV Golf Investments, consisting of eight events around the world starting in London on Thursday.

Led by former World No. 1 Greg Norman, the team-based series will run from June to October with the aim of “holistically improving the health of professional golf on a global scale to help unlock the untapped potential of the sport. “

PIF has pledged to award a total of $250 million in prize money. Each of the first seven events has a total prize pool of $25 million, with $20 million split between each player and the remaining $5 million split between the top three teams at the end of each week.

Before the first event in London, the 12 teams and their captain were announced. On Tuesday, the captains selected the rest of their teams in a draft format similar to the NFL and NBA drafts.

A general view of golfers practicing on the putting green at Centurion Club ahead of the LIV Golf Series.

Unlike typical golf events, the London event is stretched over three days instead of four, with the 48-man field starting with a shotgun start – all at the same time – hoping to be a more engaging, action-packed event.

In a traditional stroke play format, the lowest score wins.

While the first two rounds count the top two scores for each team, the final round counts the top three scores, with the team with the lowest total score after 54 holes being declared the team winner.

For the final event – a team championship – the format changes to a four-round matchplay KO tournament.

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