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#pounditSaturday, July 2, 2022

Rory McIlroy offers surprising comments on Phil Mickelson

Rory McIlroy on the course

May 30, 2019; Dublin, OH, USA; Rory McIlroy looks on during the first round of the 2019 Memorial golf tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Months after ripping Phil Mickelson over the veteran golfer’s comments about the Saudi golf league, Rory McIlroy is changing his tune.

McIlroy spoke with the media on Tuesday, days ahead of the PGA Championship. He was asked about Mickelson not participating in this year’s PGA Championship despite being the defending champion. McIlroy said he feels Mickelson’s absence is a big ommission.

“He won a major championship at 50 years old,” McIlroy said. “It was possibly his last big, big moment in the game of golf. He should be — I think he should be here this week and celebrating what a monumental achievement he achieved last year.”

McIlroy also spoke with Sky Sports for an interview on Tuesday and acknowledged that he came out strongly against Mickelson at first. The 33-year-old has surprisingly softened his stance since then.

“You know, Phil Mickelson has been a legend of our game for the last 30 years,” McIlroy told Sky Sports. “And I certainly don’t think he should be shut out of the game. You know, I think whenever he comes back he should be — you know, maybe just a little less — I don’t know if the word — more gracious, I guess, is maybe the word. It’s — you know, he — you know he said some bad things and offended some people, but I don’t think that that makes it right to completely shut him out of the game of golf.

“But I think at this point, it’s like, you know, OK, people could say there were some actions, but for the most part, they were words. And I think people can be forgiven for words.

“And, you know, I came out a little strongly against him right at the start, but then, my stance has definitely softened over the last few weeks.”

Mickelson drew negative attention in February when biographer Alan Shipnuck published comments from the golfer about his dealings with the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV golf league. Mickelson acknowledged dealing with the Saudis was extremely questionable, but said he wanted to use them as leverage against the PGA Tour.

McIlroy was among the golfers with the harshest response, calling Mickelson’s comments “naive, selfish, egotistical, ignorant.”

Mickelson was dropped by some sponsors and has not played in a golf event since then. Though arguing Mickelson should not be exiled is nice, it’s hard not to feel that McIlroy contributed to Mickelson’s absence with some extremely harsh comments in February.

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