Phil Mickelson has expressed his “sincere sympathy” to the families of those who lost loved ones in the September 11 terrorist attacks, after receiving scathing criticism over his decision to join the Saudi-backed LIV golf series.
A group representing victims’ families and survivors has accused Mickelson and a number of other top American players of washing the sport and betraying their country by attending last week’s event at the Centurion Club.
Asked about the letter written by Terry Strada, the national president of 911familiesunited.org, a visibly uncomfortable Mickelson said Monday, “I would say to the Strada family, I would say to anyone who has lost loved ones, friends lost on 9/11 that I have a deep, deep empathy for them. I cannot stress this enough. I have the deepest sympathy and empathy for them.
Pressed on whether he would respond to the letter privately, Mickelson largely repeated his earlier response. His comments cut little ice with Strada, whose husband was killed in the September 11 attacks.
“Phil knows exactly what he’s doing, and he and his fellow LIV golfers should be ashamed of themselves,” she said. “They are helping the Saudi regime clean up its reputation in exchange for tens of millions of dollars, at the same time as our government unfolds more damning evidence of Saudi culpability in the 9/11 attacks.
“As Commissioner of the PGA Tour [Jay Monahan] said on Sunday: “You would have to live under a rock” not to understand the implications of involvement with the Saudis”.
Mickelson and the 16 other PGA Tour members who participated in the first LIV Golf event without permission were instantly suspended by the Tour, although some have already resigned their memberships.
It’s something Mickelson has no intention of doing and the 51-year-old said Monday he would like to play on the PGA Tour again.
“My preference is to be able to choose which path I want, one or the other or both,” Mickelson said. “I feel like I gave as much as I could to the PGA Tour and the game of golf throughout my 30 years here, and through my accomplishments on the course, I’ve earned a lifetime membership. I plan to keep that and then choose which events to play and what not in the future.
Sunday’s victory would see Mickelson become the sixth player to complete a career Grand Slam, although he admits it will be difficult given his lack of competitive golf.
“It’s going to be a challenge, isn’t it. It’s the toughest test in golf,” said Mickelson, who shot 10 over par to finish tied for 33rd last week in his first test since February. “I think it was important for me to have some competitive golf last week and identify some of the areas of weakness. It was one of the worst putting tournaments I’ve had in years. .
Elsewhere in the US Open field, Spaniard Jon Rahm will start his bid to successfully defend his title at Brookline early. Rahm, who won his first major at Torrey Pines last year with birdies on the last two holes, will tee off at 7:18 a.m. local time (12:18 p.m. BST) on Thursday, alongside Open champion Collin Morikawa and winner American Amateur 2021 James Piot.
Rory McIlroy, who successfully defended his RBC Canadian Open title on Sunday, is also among the early starters from the 10th tee, the world No. 3 is joined by former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and silver medalist. Olympic gold Xander Schauffele at 7:40. Mickelson kicks off his campaign at 1:47 p.m. local time alongside Shane Lowry and Louis Oosthuizen.
Three-time winner Tiger Woods is not on the court after opting to give his body more time to recover ahead of the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews next month.
Woods was obviously suffering from the leg he nearly lost in a car accident in 2021 before retiring from the US PGA Championship after a third run of 79.