Golf

Phil Mickelson releases statement concerning Saudi Arabia, admits to mistakes and will take time away


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Just five minutes before a player meeting began at the Honda Classic, Phil Mickelson addressed unflattering comments about the PGA Tour and others associated with the proposed Saudi Arabia-backed, Greg Norman-led Super Golf League that would siphon off some of the game’s biggest stars and rival the PGA Tour.

In a statement issued by Mickelson, the World Golf Hall of Fame member and six-time major champion also took issue with the person that reported the comments – Alan Shipnuck of the Firepit Collective and author of the soon-to-be-released “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar.” And in the nearly 550-word release, Mickelson said he was going to take time off and “work on being the man I want to be.”

“Although it doesn’t look this way now given my recent comments, my actions throughout this process have always been with the best interest of golf, my peers, sponsors, and fans,” Mickelson wrote. “There is the problem of off-record comments being shared out of context and without my consent, but the bigger issue is that I used words I sincerely regret that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions. It was reckless, I offended people, and I am deeply sorry for my choice of words. I’m beyond disappointed and will make every effort to self-reflect and learn from this.”

Mickelson told Shipnuck that he was one of the architects behind the proposed Saudi Arabia league and said he hoped to use the league that is guaranteeing exorbitant amounts of money as leverage against the PGA Tour.

“They’re scary mother——s to get involved with,” Mickelson said of the repressive regime of Saudi Arabia. “We know they killed (Washington Post reporter and US resident Jamal) Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay.

“Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as (PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan) comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right.

“And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage.”

Earlier this year, Mickelson told Golf Digest that the PGA Tour’s “greed” was “beyond obnoxious.”

 

Despite nine of the top 12 players in the world publicaly stating they are staying with the Tour – Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau joined the growing chorus last week – Mickelson said change needs to come to professional golf.

“Golf desperately needs change, and real change is always preceded by disruption,” Mickelson said. “I have always known that criticism would come with exploring anything new. I still chose to put myself at the forefront of this to inspire change, taking the hits publicly to do the work behind the scenes.

“My experience with LIV Golf Investments has been very positive. I apologize for anything I said that was taken out of context. The specific people I have worked with are visionaries and have only been supportive.

“More importantly they passionately love golf and share my drive to make the game better. They have a clear plan to create an updated and positive experience for everyone including players, sponsors, networks, and fans.”

But it seems Mickelson was stung by criticism aimed his way, including pointed comments from Rory McIlroy and Billy Horschel.

“I don’t want to kick someone while he’s down, obviously, but I thought they were naive, selfish, egotistical, ignorant,” McIlroy said after the final round of last week’s Genesis Invitational. “A lot of words to describe that interaction he had with Shipnuck. It was just very surprising and disappointing, sad. I’m sure he’s sitting at home sort of rethinking his position and where he goes from here.”

Mickelson went with a statement.

“I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and many have been shared with the public,” Mickelson said. “My intent was never to hurt anyone and I’m so sorry to the people I have negatively impacted. This has always been about supporting the players and the game and I appreciate all the people who have given me the benefit of the doubt.

“Despite my belief that some changes have already been made within the overall discourse, I know I need to be accountable. For the past 31 years I have lived a very public life and I have strived to live up to my own expectations, be the role model the fans deserve, and be someone that inspires others. I’ve worked to compete at the highest level, be available to media, represent my sponsors with integrity, engage with volunteers and sign every autograph for my incredible fans.

“I have experienced many successful and rewarding moments that I will always cherish, but I have often failed myself and others too.  The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level.  I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.”





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