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#pounditSunday, November 27, 2022

Rory McIlroy, others blast Phil Mickelson over Saudi golf league

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson has been on a mission lately to turn people against the PGA Tour, but the six-time major champion has not had much success. The biggest reason for that is the lack of support Mickelson has received from his fellow golf superstars. Some of them, like Rory McIlroy, have blasted “Lefty.”

In an interview with Golf Digest earlier this month, Mickelson unloaded on the PGA Tour for its “obnoxious” greed with player media rights. More recently, golf writer Alan Shipnuck shared some comments Mickelson made to him about the Tour back in November for Shipnuck’s upcoming book “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar.” Mickelson said he is so disgusted with the PGA Tour that he’s willing to help launch a golf league in a country with a troubling human rights history.

“They’re scary motherf—ers to get involved with,” Mickelson said of Saudi Arabian officials. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] 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. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.”

It does not sound like the Saudi Golf League is going to succeed. McIlroy and other PGA stars were quick to distance themselves from Mickelson.

“I don’t want to kick someone while he’s down, obviously, but I thought (Mickelson’s remarks) were naïve, selfish, egotistical, ignorant,” McIlroy said after the Genesis Open on Sunday, via Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner. “It was just very surprising and disappointing. Sad. I’m sure he’s sitting at home sort of rethinking his position and where he goes from here.”

While they did not bash Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau issued statements last week distancing themselves from the Saudi golf league after rumors linked them to it. Billy Horschel echoed McIlroy’s criticism while speaking with Golf Channel’s Matt Adams on the “Fairways of Life” podcast.

“They were a little bit idiotic to tell you the truth,” Horschel said of Mickelson’s comments. “I think some of the statements he made are lies, are false, are — I don’t know where he got his information from. It’s unbelievable that he would say certain things because I think he does understand how the PGA Tour works…”

There was a rumor that DeChambeau was offered an absurd amount of money to join the Saudi league, but that turned out to be false. While Mickelson likely is not the only one who wants to see changes on the PGA Tour, he has clearly alienated some of his peers with his approach.

Photo: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

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