Mickelson apologizes for Saudi comments, deal with KPMG ends

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FILE – Phil Mickelson leaves the 14th green after missing a birdie putt during the third round at the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Ocean Course on Saturday, May 22, 2021 in Kiawah Island, SC. Whether his real intentions were chasing Saudi Arabian money or gaining more control over how he felt the PGA Tour should be conducted, Mickelson has been exposed for manipulating people to get what he wants. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, file)

AP

Phil Mickelson apologized on Tuesday for comments about the Saudis and a planned Super League, damaging words he claims are confidential and should not be shared publicly.

“It was reckless, I insulted people, and I’m deeply sorry for my choice of words,” he said.

At the same time as Mickelson’s statement, KPMG became the first of its corporate sponsors to announce an immediate end to their partnership, a decision KPMG says was mutual.

“We wish him well,” KPMG said in a statement.

Mickelson said of his comments to author and golf writer Alan Shipnuck, “I am beyond disappointed and will make every effort to self-reflect and learn from it.”

In explosive remarks, Mickelson told Shipnuck the Saudis behind a proposed breakaway rival league are “scary moms (swear words) to get involved with.”

He also told Shipnuck, who is writing a biography of Mickelson due out in May, that despite their history of human rights abuses, if there was a chance to change the PGA Tour, it was worth going to bed with the Saudis.

“We know they (Washington Post columnist Jamal) killed Khashoggi and have a terrible human rights record. They execute people there because they’re gay,” he said. “If I know all this, why should I even consider it? Because this is a unique opportunity to reshape the way the PGA Tour works.”

The interview took place last November.

Mickelson said he has always put the interests of golf first, “although from my recent comments it doesn’t seem so now.”

“There’s a problem with off-record comments being taken out of context and shared without my consent,” he said. “But the bigger problem is that I used words that I genuinely regret that don’t reflect my true feelings or intentions.”

Shipnuck wrote on The Fire Pit Collective, where he posted Mickelson’s comments last week, that “not once did he say our conversation was private or background or just between us or anything remotely remote. He just opened up a vein.”

Shipnuck, who previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, tweeted Tuesday that Mickelson’s claims that he spoke in confidence were “completely false.”

Mickelson also apologized to LIV Golf Investments, the Greg Norman-led group primarily funded by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But he made no mention of the PGA Tour or its commissioner Jay Monahan, whom he described as a “dictatorship” in the Shipnuck interview. Mickelson also said he and three top players paid attorneys to write a competing league’s operating agreement.

Mickelson’s comments appear to fall under tour policy of public statements that inappropriately attack or disparage groups like the tour.

Mickelson, who became the oldest major champion in history at 50 when he won the PGA Championship last year, said he’s felt pressure and stress on a deeper level over the past 10 years and he needs a break.

But he didn’t say if he would take a break from golf. He has not played since the Saudi International on February 6th. He’s not playing this week. His statement ended, “I know I haven’t done my best and I desperately need some time to prioritize those I love the most and work on being the man I want to be.”

Mickelson said he did not want to compromise his corporate partners and has given them the opportunity to pause or end their relationships with him.

Central to his testimony was his claim that he acted in the best interests of golf, players, sponsors and fans, “although from my recent statements it doesn’t appear to have been the case.”

He also said he needed to be accountable “despite my belief that some changes have already been made throughout the discourse.”

The PGA Tour has made changes to reward top players amid the potential Saudi league threat and launched a “Player Impact Program” that compensates stars for popularity and social media impressions. Mickelson claimed he won the PIP in his freshman year.

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