Phil Mickelson discusses LIV Golf ahead of US Open

Phil Mickelson discusses LIV Golf ahead of US Open

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BROOKLINE, Mass. – Phil Mickelson’s Geopolitics World Tour moved from suburban London to the front edges of these shores at midday on Monday, when he stood at a lectern flanked by two plastic plants in a small interview tent warm with big grilled questions.

Ahead of the US Open, one of the era’s most recognizable golfers looked bearded and otherwise different – less heartbreaking than usual, somehow aloof, almost robotic – as he stayed in the space crowded for about 25 minutes and answered more questions than required by the moderator. He defended in anodyne terms his decision to join Saudi Arabia’s prodigiously wealthy LIV Golf. He deployed the word “respect” profusely. He explained the attraction to a government whose human rights record he noted – and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – months ago.

“I think there’s an incredible financial commitment evident,” he said, “but more than that – for all the players involved and for everyone involved – but more than that there is other factors that with less tournaments it allows me to have more balance in my life. It allows me to do things outside of the golf course that I’ve always wanted to do. I find that by giving priority to those who are important to me, people who are important to me in the future, it allows me to have more time with them, to be more present and to share more life experiences outside golf.

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He said he doesn’t know how his career might go from here now that he has given up some future as a beloved golfer in the form of Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer. “I think it was pretty public that I was suspended [from the PGA Tour] with a bunch of other players so it would just be speculative going forward,” he said. “I will be playing LIV events. I will be playing the British Open, but anything other than that would be pure speculation. I don’t know how this is all going to turn out. »

As for wishes, he’d like to play both tours if possible: “I’ve worked hard to earn a lifetime membership,” he said. “I’ve worked hard to give back to the PGA Tour and the game of golf throughout my 30+ years of professional golf, and I’ve earned this lifetime membership, so I think this should be my choice.”

The PGA Tour has suspended or accepted resignations from players who have switched to the LIV Tour, a version of golf that features 54-hole events and spares competitors the indignity of the harsh world of cups. Players who have defected so far include Dustin Johnson, top-ranked at No. 16, and big winners Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Charl Schwartzel. Schwartzel won the first LIV event over the weekend and was awarded $4 million, $1.3 million more than top-ranked Scottie Scheffler for winning the Masters in April.

Mickelson, who slammed the PGA Tour for “abhorrent greed” to Golf Digest in February from Saudi Arabia, said he had “strong opinions and ideas about, say, most governing bodies, and j ‘ve done a poor job of conveying this. I made it public, and it’s a mistake. It’s one of the mistakes I made, and I’m trying to move forward by being much more thoughtful with my words and actions and trying to keep a lot of that stuff behind closed doors.

The word “respect” surfaced a dozen times in his remarks. This applied to the fans: “I respect and understand their opinions, and understand that they have strong feelings and strong emotions regarding this choice.” This applied to former PGA Tour colleagues: “I have the utmost respect for PGA Tour players. … I think I respect if they don’t agree, but for now it’s the right decision. That applied to former colleague Rory McIlroy, who won the Canadian Open on Sunday: “I certainly respect him. I respect his ideas. I respect all players who choose to stay on the PGA Tour.

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A 51-year-old veteran of three decades of answering questions criticized the questions, particularly when callers asked plural questions. At one point: “I don’t like it when you keep asking multiple questions.” Asked what he could have done to “grow the game”, in his own words, at the LIV Golf launch event outside London, he replied: “Every day is not about what I did to develop the game.” (He then mentioned that children were attending the event.) Amid a question about the involvement of Saudi citizens in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and a public letter from a widow of the attacks condemning golfers who defected, Mickelson said, “I read all that. Is there a question in there? »

He replied, “I would say to the [Terry] Strada family, I would say to anyone who lost loved ones, lost friends on 9/11, that I have a deep, deep empathy for them. I can’t stress that enough. I have the deepest sympathy and empathy for them. Terry Strada released another statement on Monday afternoon, saying “Phil knows exactly what he’s doing, and he and his fellow LIV golfers should be ashamed.”

Mickelson spoke like a different character ahead of his 116th major championship than he had at one of the first 115, to “this incredible championship that eluded me” – he paused – “for my entire career” . He spoke about his four-month stint as a recluse after his comments about Saudi backers of LIV Golf and his subsequent apology, and he said, “I also continued to work on some areas that I miss in my life. I mean, the most obvious is the game. I’ve been working on this for years, and I’m very happy with where I’m at, but I’ll have to keep working on this for the rest of my life. And he spoke at the only major championship to elude him despite a chart history of contention, at a course he played on in 1999 on the USA Ryder Cup team which won a dramatic victory.

“I think the crowds in Boston are some of the best in the sport,” he said, “and I think they’ve given me a lot of support, and I’m very grateful for that over the years. I think their enthusiasm and energy is what creates such a good atmosphere, so whether it’s positive or negative towards me directly, I think it’s going to create an incredible atmosphere to organize this championship.

In the end, he went behind the tent in the hot sun with a policeman nearby, stopped for a drink, accepted the wish of a woman behind the tent, and boarded the second of two carts. , turning to a crowd. behind him and saying, “Hey, guys, have a great week.”

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