Mickelson 'Deeply Sorry' For Controversial Saudi Comments

The outspoken American issues a statement explaining his recent comments

Phil Mickelson tees off at the second hole of the 2022 PIF Saudi International
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson has released a statement apologising for recent comments regarding the PGA Tour and rumoured Saudi League. Last month, the 51-year-old American accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed” regarding its stance on media rights. More recently, he courted even more controversy when an excerpt from the upcoming book, Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar, by Alan Shipnuck, quoted Mickelson admitting his allegiance to the reported Saudi Golf League is a ruse to leverage the Tour. However, now Mickelson has backtracked in a lengthy statement, where he apologised for his comments and said he is deeply sorry for them.

“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 and learn from this."

Mickelson also used the statement to explain his motivation for his comments and said his intentions have only ever been to improve the game. He said: “Golf desperately needs 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.”

The rumoured Saudi Golf League has recently attracted backlash from many players, with Rory McIlroy admitting he’s sick of talking about it when asked about it at last week’s Genesis Invitational. Other players, including Viktor Hovland and Dustin Johnson, have also recently distanced themselves from the possibility of joining the reported league. Nevertheless, Mickelson still has plenty of praise for LIV Golf Investments, who are thought to be behind the rumoured venture, and suggested some of his comments had been taken out of context.

“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. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and many have been shared with the public. 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.”

Mickelson’s statement went on suggest that the stress of life in the public eye has contributed to his recent comments and that he may be preparing for a spell away from the game, saying: “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.”

The fallout from the statement was almost immediate, with the upcoming book’s author, Alan Shipnuck, taking to Twitter to voice his displeasure about the “off the record” part of the statement and promising he’ll have more to say on the matter shortly. Meanwhile, one of Mickelson's sponsors, KPMG, said that they and Mickelson have mutually agreed to end their deal with immediate effect. 

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It remains to be seen when we will next see Mickelson in competitive action, with The Masters in April looking the most likely.

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.