Phil Mickelson answers media questions after finishing his round in the Zurich Pro-Am in the Farmers Open.
Phil Mickelson answered media questions after finishing his round in the Zurich Pro-Am in the Farmers Open in 2017. Photo by Chris Stone

Phil Mickelson issued an apology this week and rolled back comments he made about the proposed Saudi Golf League, meant to rival the PGA, that drew sharp criticism.

The San Diego native concluded his statement, issued via social media, by saying he “desperately” needs “time away” from his sport after the upheaval.

The, Reuters reported, published an interview in which Mickelson noted the Saudi government’s “horrible record” on human rights, particularly the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and threats to gay people.

Mickelson, though, also expressed disdain for how the PGA Tour operates, and hoped, despite his concerns about the Saudi government, to promote the new tour either as a viable rival or to use it to make inroads for change with tour officials.

Many fellow golfers, though, including Tiger Woods, another San Diego native, Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa, according to Golfweek, sided with the PGA. Rory McIlroy noted, “Like, you’ve got the top players in the world saying no, so that has to tell you something,” Golfweek reported.

“My allegiance to the PGA Tour … never wavered,” Schauffele wrote in his own statement, shared on Twitter.

In Mickelson’s lengthy statement, posted on Tuesday, he accused the journalist, Alan Shipnuck, who posted the interview, of violating an off-the-record agreement regarding his comments. The writer, Reuters reported, who is working on a book about Mickelson, denied the accusation.

But the champion golfer also said that he understands that “the bigger issue is that I used words that I sincerely regret that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions.”

He repeated his contention that “golf desperately needs change,” but said in pursuing it “my actions throughout this process have always been with the best interest of golf, my peers, sponsors and fans (in mind).” 

In addition to sparking tensions with fellow golfers, the controversy appeared to have cost Mickelson the sponsorship of KPMG, according to the Golf Channel. The auditing firm called it a “mutually agreed” upon parting of the ways with the star after he issued his statement.

Mickelson has won 45 tournaments in his 30 years on the tour, six major titles and nearly $100 million in prize money. He won his last major last year, at the PGA Championship.