Phil Mickelson had a remarkable fall from grace last year after his inflammatory comments on the human rights record of the Saudi Kingdom bankrolling LIV Golf.
It has now been a year since Phil Mickelson spectacularly tainted his legacy with an utterance that reverberated around golf.
Mickelson surrendered his competitive relevance when pledging to sign a mega-money contract for an emerging Saudi-Arabian-based breakaway tour just months after becoming the oldest major champion at Kiawah Island.
But his comments acknowledging the human right issues of the Kingdom bankrolling Greg Norman’s insurgent LIV Golf venture will haunt him the most.
The six-time major champion has made a career astonishing golf fans but his infamous chat with his biographer Alan Shipnuck will prove just as memorable as his exploits on the course.
Lefty sent shockwaves through the golf world when he referenced the 2018 killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a horrific admission about the repressive Saudi regime, when explaining how the Gulf State were providing leverage for the PGA Tour.
“They are scary motherf****** to get involved with,” Mickelson said in a November phone call with Shipnuck. “We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights.
“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. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse.”
The infusion of even more money into the PGA Tour as a direct response to LIV’s disruptive emergence later on in the year was a sign that Mickelson’s skewed intentions at least had somewhat of a desired effect for the elite players on the American circuit.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has responded to the LIV threat with the introduction of elevated events with bigger prize purses and extra incentives for the stars of the sport through a revised Player Impact Program.
But Mickelson’s extraordinary perspective on the Gulf State, who were offering the leverage he wanted for the PGA Tour to make structural changes, have left an indelible mark on his reputation. Mickelson became golf’s pariah when his inflammatory conversation with Shipnuck became public knowledge.
World no.1 Rory McIlroy, an ardent supporter of golf’s status quo, branded his comments as “naive, selfish and egotistical”, while he was derided by many others in golfing circles for his remarkable ignorance.
Mickelson then disappeared into the cold for the next few months, reeling from the backlash from not only his fellow pros but also fans who had adored him for so long. He had apologised for his comments and said he needed “some time away”, missing the Masters for the first time in 28 years as his reputation nosedived.
The 52-year-old eventually reappeared for LIV’s inaugural event at the Centurion Club in June, but his golf had suffered dramatically. He spent the rest of the year hyping up the LIV enterprise, but failed to finish above 35th in one of the 48-man invitational events.
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