Phil Mickelson apologises for ‘reckless’ comments about PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia

Six-time major winner says he will take time away from the game as he loses major, long-time sponsor

Phil Mickelson tees off the 14th hole during day three of the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club on February 05, 2022 in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia. Getty
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Phil Mickelson says he “sincerely regrets” the recently published comments regarding the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia, adding he will take time away from the game to “work on becoming the man I want to be".

The six-time major champion, 51, issued a lengthy apology on social media on Tuesday after excerpts released from an coming book by author Alun Shipnuck in which Mickelson made disparaging comments about the kingdom.

The American, one of the most recognisable names in golf, told Shipnuck he was using the proposed Saudi-backed Super Golf League in part as leverage against the PGA Tour.

On Tuesday, Mickelson said in a statement: "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 claimed the comments were off-record and shared out of context, and that his actions "have always been with the best interest of golf".

After the publication of his conversation with Shipnuck, a number of golf’s leading names were fierce in their criticism of Mickelson, including four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and world No 3 Justin Thomas.

Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson, thought to be two of the most prominent players enticed by the new league, then reaffirmed their commitment to the PGA Tour.

"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."

On Tuesday, Shipnuck responded directly to Mickelson’s statement by tweeting: “The 'off the record' piece of this is completely false and I'll have more to say on that shortly.”

Global audit and tax advisory service KPMG, a long-time sponsor of Mickelson, said they and the three-time Masters champion "have mutually agreed to end our sponsorship effective immediately. We wish him the best."

Regarding his sponsors and business partners, Mickelson said: "I have given all of them the option to pause or end the relationship as I understand it might be necessary given the current circumstances."

Still, Mickelson described his experience with Liv Golf Investments, the Saudi-backed company understood to be behind the Super Golf League, as "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," he said.

He said also that the group “share my drive to make the game better”.

Still, Mickelson remained staunch in his belief that the sport requires reform in how it is run, saying: "Golf desperately needs change, and real change is always preceded by disruption.

"I've 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."

Last year, Mickelson triumphed at the PGA Championship to become, at age 50, the oldest major winner in history. However, the latest episode in an often colourful career threatens to tarnish his standing in the game.

"I have experienced many successful and rewarding moments that I will always cherish, but I've often failed myself and others too," Mickelson wrote on Tuesday.

"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."

Updated: February 23, 2022, 7:51 PM