Phil Mickelson says he’s ‘said and done a lot of things that I regret’ as he’s grilled on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record ahead of LIV Golf series departure

Phil Mickelson says he’s ‘said and done a lot of things that I regret’ as he’s grilled on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record ahead of LIV Golf series departure

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

Shipnuck quoted Mickelson saying disparaging things about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and saying the kingdom killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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

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

Mickelson said in February he would step away from golf “time” after being criticized for his remarks. He then lost several endorsements due to the controversy and on Monday tweeted a statement apologizing for his earlier comments.

In his opening response at Wednesday’s press conference, when asked about the human rights record of the country that funds the company, Mickelson appeared remorseful.

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

“I don’t condone human rights violations at all. I don’t think – no one here does, in the whole world. I’m certainly aware of what happened with Jamal Khashoggi, and I think it’s terrible.

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

His appearance at the Centurion Club is his first on the golf course in nearly four months – he missed the Masters this year for the first time in 28 years. The American, however, said he had an “awesome time” away from the sport, spending it skiing and with his family.

However, the topic of Saudi Arabia and sportswashing was clearly one Mickelson must have pondered during his break from golf.

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

On several occasions, Mickelson gave a similar answer. “I do not tolerate human rights violations in any way,” he repeated many times.

Mickelson speaks at a press conference, seated alongside Justin Harding and Chase Koepka.

The future

The players’ decision to agree to play on the LIV Golf series has sparked a host of questions.

One of the main ones was whether their commitment to this new tour would affect their ability to appear on golf’s other tours, including the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

Just recently, the PGA Tour threatened “disciplinary action” against PGA Tour golfers who play in the new Saudi-backed series.

Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, along with longtime PGA Tour player Kevin Na, have resigned from the PGA Tour to compete in the LIV Golf event. This means Johnson will no longer be eligible for the Ryder Cup, although the US Open announced on Wednesday that players will be able to play in the next major tournament.

Asked about his future with the PGA Tour on Wednesday, and specifically whether he had been banned for agreeing to join the new venture, Mickelson – who is eligible for life on the PGA Tour – declined to confirm or deny, choosing instead to keep his cards close to his chest.

“I’m learning lessons,” said Mickelson, who said he will play the US Open this month. “I would speak publicly about a PGA Tour matter, which I choose not to do at this time.

“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 make an effort to keep these conversations behind closed doors.

“I don’t want to give up (my PGA Tour lifetime membership). I don’t think I should have to. I don’t know what that means for the future, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I earned it, and I don’t plan on just giving it up.

Mickelson watches past the LIV Golf series.

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

Besides the huge prize money, one of the reasons Mickelson gives for starring in the LIV series is to create a better balance between his family and his professional life.

And even his recent break, he said, made him realize how much better his life could be.

“I’ve played a lot of golf over the years, and when I finally stepped away and took a break, I realized I needed to have a little, I guess, better balance. I’ve said it many times,” he said.

“I just needed a little more balance on and off the golf course, and it gives me a chance to bring golf back into my life while doing the things off the course that I wanted to do, what it’s travelling, spending time with the people I love.

“I went to a couple of my nephews’ little league games. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that in my entire life. I went to my niece’s lacrosse games. “opportunity to do that. It gave me opportunities, as I say, to have a 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 and consists of eight events around the world, starting in London on Thursday.

Led by former world No. 1 Greg Norman, the tag team series will run from June through October with the goal, she says, “to holistically improve the health of professional golf globally to help unlock the untapped potential of sport.”

The PIF has pledged to award a total of $250 million in prizes. Each of the first seven events will have a total purse of $25 million, with $20 million split among individual players and the remaining $5 million being split among the top three teams at the end of each week.

Ahead of the first event in London, the 12 teams were announced, along with their captains. 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 Centurion Club green ahead of the LIV golf series.

Unlike typical golf events, the London event takes place over three days, not four, with a field of 48 players starting with a shotgun start – all at the same time – in the hope of being an event more engaging and action-packed style.

Competing in a traditional move play format, the lowest score will be the winner.

While in the first two rounds the top two scores will count for each team, in the final round the top three scores will count, with the team’s lowest overall score after 54 holes being named the team winner.

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

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