HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, England – In his first public appearance since February, Phil Mickelson has neither confirmed nor denied that he has been suspended or banned by the PGA Tour for joining the LIV Golf Tour.
“I have chosen not to speak publicly about PGA Tour issues at this time,” Mickelson said Wednesday morning.
Mickelson has confirmed multiple times that he regrets recent controversial comments that led to his decision to take some time away from golf, including his decision not to defend the PGA Championship last month.
“I’ve said and done a lot of things that I regret,” Mickelson said. “I am so sorry and sorry for the hurt it has caused so many people.”
Mickelson is part of a 48-player LIV golf course that will hold its first event starting on Thursday at the Centurion Club outside London. Also among the players are Kevin Na and Dustin Johnson, who were among several golfers who announced over the past week that they were resigning from their PGA Tour membership.
Sources previously told ESPN’s Mark Schlabash that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told players’ agents at Memorial last week in Dublin, Ohio, that players have to choose whether to play on the PGA Tour or in the LIV Golf Series and that they can’t play in both. Monahan threatened players who competed in London without release with discipline, including fines, suspensions and/or bans.
Mickelson answered questions from reporters for nearly 30 minutes, but declined multiple times for specifics about comments he made to journalist Alan Shipnock, published in February, in which he stated that the owners of the LIV Golf were “scary mothers to share with.”
LIV Golf is backed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which is controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Salman has been accused of numerous human rights violations, including the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“I don’t condone human rights abuses at all,” Michelson said. “Nobody here, all over the world. I’m definitely aware of what happened with Jamal Khashoggi, and I think it’s horrific. I’ve also seen the good that golf has done throughout history, and I think LIV Golf will do a lot of good things for the game too. I’m excited about this one.” opportunity, which is why I’m here.”
Mickelson chose his words carefully throughout the press conference, pausing several times as he seemed to weigh how to tackle a topic before opening his mouth. He cracked a few jokes and sipped his personal brand of healing coffee from a mug with his personal logo, but mostly he seemed sad as he thought about his answers.
He said during his four months off golf he traveled with his family, spent time in therapy and watched golf on TV.
“I got a four-month break from the game that I haven’t had in over three decades,” Mickelson said. “I have had the opportunity to spend time with my wife, Amy, spend time traveling to parts of the world, spend time at our place in Montana skiing and hiking in Sedona. It has given me time to continue some work and therapy in the areas I struggle with. It’s a shortcoming in my life. It’s given me time to reflect on what I want to do moving forward and what’s best for me and what’s best for the people I care about.”
Mickelson confirmed that he was trying to address certain behaviors – specifically excessive gambling – that he felt were negatively affecting his personal life.
“I’ve been dealing with it for many years,” Mickelson said. “My family and I, we’ve been financially safe – I can’t even remember how long now. But he sure would be under threat if I didn’t address this. And I did.”
Mickelson said he has not resigned as a member of the PGA Tour and has no plans to do so, but he is not sure what his future on the PGA Tour might be.
“I won a lot from the PGA Tour, and I received a lot,” Mickelson said. “I’ve worked hard to contribute and add value to the tour during my time there. I’ve worked hard to earn a lifetime exemption, I don’t want to give up on that and I don’t feel like I should get into.
“I don’t know what that means for the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’ve earned it, and I don’t plan to just give it up.”
Although it was previously indicated that he was using the LIV Golf as “leverage” to push some changes on the PGA Tour, Mickelson declined to say which changes he was still interested in.
“I have a lot of strong opinions about things that should and could be much better,” Mickelson said. “One of the mistakes I’ve made is putting that out there. So I’m going to make an effort to keep these conversations behind closed doors moving forward. I think that’s the way to be more efficient and get the most out of it.”
Mickelson said he plans to play in the US Open next week at The Country Club in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, and feels better about his game now than he has in months.
“I got a four month break from the game that I hadn’t had in over three decades. I had the opportunity to spend time with my wife, Amy, and spend time traveling to parts of the world, spending time at our place in Montana skiing and hiking At Sedona. It has given me time to continue some work and therapy in the areas where I am short of life. It has given me time to reflect what I want to do forward and what is best for me and what is best for the people I care about.”
Phil Mickelson, on his 2022 break from golf
He said he felt – based on conversations with the organizers – that he would have been welcomed into the Masters, or PGA Championship. But he didn’t feel that his game was about to be sharp enough to compete.
“Every Masters day, I skated in the morning and watched the tournament afterwards,” Mickelson said. “I enjoyed watching it. I thought Scotty Scheffler put in a great performance there. I found myself missing the Masters but I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t play. I didn’t touch any club. I wasn’t in a position to be competitive. But I will always love that tournament, and if I wasn’t there, I will always miss her, but I had no desire to be there.”
He said he felt the same way about the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. Mickelson was the first major champion in modern history to choose not to defend his title by choice, not by injury.
“He’s made it clear to me through intense conversations that I can play if I want to,” Mickelson said. “I just chose not to do it.”
Towards the end of the press conference, Mickelson couldn’t resist a small smile when asked if he was actually receiving $200 million from LIV Golf for his participation in the Startup League.
“I feel the contract agreements should be private,” Mickelson said. “It doesn’t seem to be the case, but it should be.”
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