GOLF

Phil Mickelson grilled as ‘Saudi minion’ in awkward LIV Golf press conference

ADVERTISEMENT

Phil Mickelson on Wednesday morning London time met reporters for the first time since his nearly four-month self-imposed exile ahead of the inaugural Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament this week, and it was a very annoying and uncomfortable.

At the center of the grills was the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government in 2018 and the perceived part that Mickelson and the other players are taking in “sportswashing”.

ADVERTISEMENT

During the Q&A, Mickelson, who according to a report was awarded $200 million to star in the LIV Golf series, repeatedly mentioned that he doesn’t condone human rights abuses. man and did his best to describe the LIV Golf tournament series as something that can be good for the sport.

Two pieces of news that came out of the session were that Mickelson refused to acknowledge whether or not he was serving a PGA Tour ban, saying after a long pause, “I…I chose not to speak publicly about the PGA Tour issues in this moment. .”

Phil Mickelson was grilled by reporters ahead of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational.
Action images via Reuters

Mickelson, also asked if he will be playing the US Open next week, said: “I will be playing the US Open next week (and) I can’t wait to be there.”

He started his press conference by apologizing.

“There are a lot of things I regret and I’m sorry for the hurt this has caused a lot of people,” Mickelson said contritely, referring to his explosive comments posted in February in which he was very critical of the regard to the Saudis and the PGA Tour.

“I do not tolerate human rights violations in any way. No one here does… in the whole world. And I’m certainly aware of what happened with Jamal Khashoggi and I think it’s terrible.

“I have always seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history and I believe LIV Golf is going to do a lot of good for the game as well and I’m excited for this opportunity and that’s why I’m here. .”

This is where intense grilling by Mickelson, the six-time major champion, began.

A reporter asked him if he feared being seen as a “sports washing tool” and that he could be seen as a “Saudi lackey” and “tarnish” his legacy.

“I said earlier, I don’t condone human rights abuses,” Mickelson said. “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’m thrilled to be a part of that opportunity . ”

Phil Mickelson was grilled by reporters ahead of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational.
Phil Mickelson was grilled by reporters ahead of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational.
AFP via Getty Images

He was asked about his use of the word ‘leverage’ when referring to the use of the Saudi series against the PGA Tour, and that he ‘now represents the very people you used to leverage “.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time on the PGA Tour, I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences, great memories, and I have a lot of strong opinions about what could and should be much better (with the Tour ),,” Mickelson said. “One of the mistakes I’ve made is expressing them publicly. So I’m really going to make an effort to keep those conversations behind closed doors going forward.”

He was asked: “What are you apologizing for telling the truth about the Saudis or are you sorry for the shameless hypocrisy of taking their money anyway?”

“I understand that a lot of people have very strong opinions and that a lot of people don’t agree with my decision, and I can relate to that,” Mickelson said. “But right now it’s an opportunity that gives me the chance to have as much balance as possible in my life going forward and I think that’s going to do a lot of good for the game.”

Phil Mickelson practices at the Centurion Club ahead of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational.
Phil Mickelson practices at the Centurion Club ahead of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational.
Action images via Reuters

When asked if he thought ‘the good of the game’ could ‘catch up’ on Khashoggi’s murder, Mickelson replied: ‘No one here tolerates human rights abuses and no one is trying to make amends. anything”.

ADVERTISEMENT