The professional golfer Phil Mickelson apologised recently after he came out in support of the Saudi Super League whilst also criticising the Saudi Arabian regime.
The comments were made back in November to the writer Alan Shipnuck, who is writing an unauthorised biography of the US PGA Champion with the comments being made public by the writer on Friday 18 February 2022.
The 51-year-old said he supported the new league as it would give US golfers ‘a once-in-lifetime opportunity to reshape’ how the Professional Golf Association operates but also said, in what he has suggested to be off the record, Saudi Arabia has ‘a horrible record on human rights’.
As the Saudis began to target golf’s biggest names, such as Ian Poulter, and Bryson deChambeau, a group mainly led by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy voiced early opposition against the idea and were soon joined by those who had initially shown interest.
Following, the comments Mickelson decided to take time away from the Sport and will therefore not be defending his title at the upcoming PGA Championships this week.
What comments did Phil Mickelson make?
Speaking to the author Shipnuck in a phone interview, Mickelson said that the Saudis were ‘scary mother****ers to get involved with’.
The comments were then posted to the website Firepit Collective.
Mickleson added: “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.”
What has Phil Mickelson said in response?
In a statement which was issued by Mickelson’s management company SportFive, the golfer said: “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.
“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 from this.”
In addition to his apology, Mickelson, who is often branded as one of the best golfers in history, has said he is suffering mentally from such a long career in the spotlight.
“I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and many have been shared with the public,” he added. “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 prioritise the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.”
What has Mickelson said about the Super League?
Whilst apologising for his comments, the Golfer also reiterated his belief that professional golf needs change and has said he is working closely with the Greg Norman-fronted LIV golf Investments who are behind the plans for the super league.
“Golf desperately needs to change. And real change is always preceded by disruption. 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 apologise for anything I said that was taken out of context. The specific people I have worked with are visionaries and have only been supportive.”
What has Tiger Woods said?
Tiger Wood’s has recently said that Mickelson’s controversial comments were ‘polarising’.
Speaking ahead of the US PGA Championship, Woods said : “I still think the Tour has so much to offer, so much opportunity.
“I understand different viewpoints but I believe in legacies, I believe in major championships and big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past.”
“There is plenty of money out there. The Tour is growing - like any other sport, like tennis, you have to go out there and earn it.
“It’s always disappointing when the defending champion is not here. Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the Tour and the legacy of the Tour have pushed back against and he has taken some personal time.”
What has Rory McIlroy said in response?
McIlroy has previously referred to Mickelson’s words as ‘naive, selfish, egotistical and ignorant’.
Additionally, McIlroy has also called the Saudi Super League to be ‘dead in the water’, following the announcement that both Bryson deChambeau and Dustin Johnson stated they would remain committed to the PGA Tour.
McIlroy said: “Who’s left? Who’s left to go? I mean, there’s no-one. Who else have you got to fill the field? I mean, Greg Norman would have to tee it up to fill the field. Like, I mean seriously, who else is going to do it? I don’t think they could get 48 guys.”