Phil Mickelson on Wednesday morning London time met reporters for the first time since his nearly four-month self-imposed exile prior to this week’s Saudi-backed LIV Golf inaugural tournament, and it was a very awkward, awkward affair.
At the center were the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government in 2018 and the alleged role of Mickelson and the other players in “sports washes.”
During the question-and-answer session, Mickelson, who was reported to have been awarded $200 million to play in the LIV Golf series, made multiple references to his disapproval of human rights violations and did his best to rid the LIV Golf series of tournaments. painting as something that can be good for the sport.
Two tidbits that emerged from the session were that Mickelson refused to acknowledge whether or not he has been banned from the PGA Tour, saying after a lengthy hiatus: “I…I choose not to at this point. to speak publicly on PGA Tour issues”
Mickelson, also asked if he will play the US Open next week, said, “I’ll be playing the US Open next week (and) I’m looking forward to it.”
He started his press conference with an apology.
“There are many things I regret and I am sorry for the pain it has caused many people,” said a repentant Mickelson, referring to his explosive comments published in February in which he was highly critical of the Saudis and the PGA Tour.
“I don’t condone human rights violations at all. No one here does… all over the world. And I’m certainly aware of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi and I think it’s terrible.
“I have always seen the good that golf has done throughout history and I believe that LIV Golf will also do a lot of good for the game and I am excited about this opportunity and that is why I am here.”
This is where the intense whims of Mickelson, the six-time major champion, began.
A reporter asked him if he was concerned that he would be seen as a “sports detergent” and that he could be seen as a “Saudi straw man” and “tarnish” his legacy.
“I said before that I don’t condone human rights violations,” said Mickelson. “I don’t know how else I could be clearer. Again, I love this game of golf, I’ve seen the good it’s done and I see the opportunity for LIV Golf to do a lot of good for the world and I am delighted to be a part of this opportunity.”
He was asked about his use of the word “leverage” when referring to the use of the Saudi series against the PGA Tour, and the fact that he now “represents the same people you leveraged.”
“I’ve really enjoyed my time on the PGA Tour, I’ve had a lot of incredible experiences, some great memories, and I have a lot of strong opinions about what could and should be done much better (with the Tour),’ said Mickelson. “One of the mistakes I’ve made is expressing it publicly. So I’m going to make a real effort to keep those conversations behind closed doors in the future.”
He was asked, “What do you apologize for _ for speaking the truth about the Saudis or regret the blatant hypocrisy of taking their money anyway?”
“I understand that many people have strong opinions and many do not agree with my decision, and I can empathize with that,” said Mickelson. “But right now this is an opportunity that gives me the opportunity to be in the I want to have the most balance in my life in the future and I think it will do a lot of good for the game.”
When asked if he thought the “goodness of the game” could make up for Khashoggi’s murder, Mickelson said: “Nobody condones human rights violations and nobody tries to make amends.”