Phil Mickelson won’t be discussing “PGA Tour issues” as LIV debut draws near

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Phil Mickelson won't be discussing "PGA Tour issues" as LIV debut draws near

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, England — Phil Mickelson, making his first public appearance since February, would not confirm or deny that he has been suspended or banned from the PGA Tour for joining the rival LIV Golf Tour.

“I have chosen not to speak publicly about PGA Tour issues at this time,” Mickelson said Wednesday morning.

Mickelson has repeatedly stressed that he is sorry for the recent controversial comments that led to his decision to take time off from golf, including his decision not to defend his PGA championship last month.

“I’ve said and done a lot of things that I regret,” Mickelson said. “I’m sorry about that and I’m sorry for the pain it’s caused a lot of people.”

Mickelson is part of a 48-man field for the burgeoning LIV Golf League, which will hold its first event at the Centurion Club outside London from Thursday. Also among the players are Kevin Na and Dustin Johnson, who announced among several golfers last week that they would be retiring from the PGA Tour.

Sources previously told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told players’ agents at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio last week that players would have to choose between playing on the PGA Tour or the LIV Golf series and that they could. don’t play in both. Monahan has threatened disciplinary action, including fines, suspensions and/or bans, to players found to have competed in London without a release.

Mickelson answered questions from reporters for nearly 30 minutes, but repeatedly declined to comment specifically on comments he made to journalist Alan Shipnuck, published in February, in which he said he owned LIV Golf “scary moms to meddle with.”

LIV Golf is backed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Salman has been accused of numerous human rights abuses, including the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“I do not condone human rights abuses at all,” Mickelson said. “Nobody here in the whole world knows what happened to Jamal Khashoggi and I find it horrifying. I’ve also seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history, and I believe that LIV Golf will do a lot of good for the game as well. I’m excited about this opportunity and that’s why I’m here.”

Mickelson chose his words carefully throughout the press conference, pausing several times as he seemed to consider how to broach an issue before opening his mouth. He cracked a few jokes and sipped his personal brand of therapeutic coffee from a mug with his personal logo, but mostly he seemed somber as he considered his answers.

He said that during his four months without golf, he traveled with his family, spent time in therapy and watched golf on TV.

“I had a four-month break from playing that I haven’t had in over three decades,” Mickelson said. “I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with my wife Amy and spend time traveling to parts of the world, spending time in a place we have in Montana, skiing and hiking in Sedona. It has given me time to continue some of the work and therapy in areas where I have deficits in my life. It has given me time to think about what I want to do in the future and what is best for me and the best for the people I care about.”

Mickelson confirmed that he was trying to address some behaviors – most notably his excessive gambling – that he felt were having a negative impact on his personal life.

“I’ve been handling it for many years now,” Mickelson said. “Me and my family, we’ve been financially secure for — I can’t even remember how long. But it would certainly be threatened if I didn’t address it. And I did.”

Mickelson said he has not retired from the PGA Tour and has no plans to do so, but he’s just unsure about his future on the PGA Tour.

“I’ve won a lot from the PGA Tour and got a lot,” Mickelson said. “I worked really hard during my time there to contribute and add value to the tour. I’ve worked really hard to earn a lifetime exemption and I don’t want to give that up and I don’t feel like I should have to.

“I don’t know what that means for a future. I don’t know what will happen. But I’ve earned it and I’m not going to give it up easily.”

Although Mickelson had previously indicated he would use LIV Golf as a “lever” to push through some changes on the PGA Tour, he declined to say what other changes he was interested in making.

“I have a lot of strong opinions about things that should and could be much better,” Mickelson said. “One of the mistakes I’ve made is to say it publicly. So I will make a real effort to keep these talks behind closed doors in the future. I think that’s the most efficient way to make the most of it.”

Mickelson said he plans to play next week’s US Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts and feels better about his game now than he has in months.

“I had a four-month break from the game that I haven’t had in over three decades. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with my wife Amy and spend time traveling to parts of the world where we can ski in Montana and hike in Sedona. It has given me time to continue some work and therapy in areas where I have deficits in my life. It’s given me time to think about what I want to do moving forward and what’s best for me and what’s best for the people I care about.”

Phil Mickelson, on his golf break in 2022

He said he felt – based on conversations with the organizers – he would have been welcome at the Masters or PGA Championships. But he didn’t feel his game was anywhere near sharp enough to compete.

“Every day of the Masters, I skied in the morning and then watched the tournament,” said Mickelson. “I enjoyed watching it. I thought Scottie Scheffler did an amazing performance there. I missed the Masters but didn’t want to be there. I hadn’t played. I hadn’t touched a racquet. I wasn’t in the able to be competitive. But I’ll always love this tournament and when I’m not there I’ll always miss it, but I didn’t feel like going there.”

He said he feels similarly about the PGA Championship in Southern Hills. Mickelson was the first major champion in modern history who chose not to voluntarily defend his title, not because of injury.

“It became clear to me through extensive discussions that I can play if I want to,” said Mickelson. “I just decided against it.”

Towards the end of the press conference, Mickelson couldn’t help but smile when asked if he really would get $200 million from LIV Golf for his participation in the startup league.

“I believe contract agreements should be private,” Mickelson said. “Doesn’t seem to be the case, but it should be.”

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