Golfer Phil Mickelson says he doesn’t condone human rights abuse ahead of Saudi Arabia-backed tour | World News
US golfer Phil Mickelson has said he doesn’t condone human rights abuses despite preparing to take part in a Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway tour.
The six-times major champion said that he will not follow former world number one Dustin Johnson in quitting the PGA Tour as he prepares to feature in the opening event of the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
Johnson and fellow American Kevin Na have both resigned from the PGA Tour to play in the controversial breakaway circuit.
It is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and offers a total prize fund of $255m.
Mickelson called the Saudi regime “scary” back in February.
But during a LIV press conference at the Centurion Club today, the 51-year-old repeatedly said “I don’t condone human rights violations” when he was asked about his reasons for competing in the tour.
He added that LIV Golf can “do a lot of good for the game”.
He said: “I’ve said a lot of things I regret, I’m sorry for that and the hurt it’s caused a lot of people.
“I don’t condone human rights violations at all, nobody here does, throughout the world. I’m certainly aware of what has happened with Jamal Khashoggi and I think it’s terrible.
“I’ve also seen the good the game of golf has done throughout history. I believe LIV Golf is going to do a lot of good for the game as well. I’m excited about this opportunity. That’s why I’m here.”
When asked if he was a tool of “sports-washing” or could be seen as a “Saudi stooge”, Mickelson added: “I said earlier. I don’t condone human rights violations.
“I don’t know how I can be any more clear. I understand your question, but again, I love this game of golf, I’ve seen the good it’s done and I see the opportunity for LIV Golf to do a lot of good for the game throughout the world.”
‘I’ve had time to reflect’
Mickelson’s comments come as he is ending his self-imposed four-month exile from golf.
He skipped his PGA Championship defence following a backlash over comments he made about the Saudi-backed breakaway tour and also questioned the country’s human rights record.
But he said today: “I’ve had an awesome time, I’ve had a four-month break from the game. It’s given me time to continue some of the work and therapy that I’ve been working on, on some areas I’m deficient in, in my life.
“It’s given me time to reflect on what I want to do going forward, what’s best for me, what’s best for the people I care about. This allows me to be more present and engaged with people I care about.
“That is why, when I think about being a part of LIV Golf, I feel so good about it.”
Mickelson, who has won 45 events on the PGA Tour in a career that has lasted more than three decades, added he does not want to cancel his membership with a tour that has provided him “incredible memories”.