Feb 22, 2022 - Sports

Phil Mickelson apologizes for Saudi tournament comments

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson during day three of the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Feb. 5 in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

Phil Mickelson apologized Tuesday for comments about Saudi Arabia that he says he thought were off the record, and said he needs "some time away" from professional golf.

Catch up quick: Mickelson landed in hot water last week when an excerpt from an upcoming biography about him was published, ESPN reported. In it, Mickelson discussed his decision to get involved with a potential new Saudi-backed golf league — despite Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.

  • "They killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights," Mickelson told the author in an interview, per ESPN. "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."
  • Mickelson also expressed dissatisfaction with other aspects of how the PGA operates. "The Tour likes to pretend it's a democracy, but it's really a dictatorship," he told the book's author.

What he's saying: "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,” Mickelson said in his statement.

  • He lamented the use of "off the record" being shared out of context and without his consent, before adding that "the bigger issue is that I used words that I sincerely regret that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions."

But, but, but: Mickelson maintained that "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 bottom line: The pro golfer concluded by noting that over the past decade the "pressure and stress" had been affecting him on 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.”
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