BROOKLINE, Massachusetts. – Phil Mickelson stood behind a temporary back wall in a small open-air interview tent for this week’s US Open two minutes before his scheduled 1 p.m. news conference on Monday, speaking with an official from the USGA, who asked if he wanted the interview to stop at some point. .
“No,” Mickelson told the official. “We can continue as long as it takes. I understand that (journalists) have many questions.
Thus began the second interrogation of Mickelson, 51, in six days by journalists seeking answers as to why he chose to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, led by Greg Norman, a decision that led to his suspension from the PGA. He toured with 16 other players who participated in the tour’s inaugural event last week.
Last Wednesday, before the LIV Tour event in London, Mickelson came out of his four-month exile and was peppered with politically charged questions about his $200 million alliance with the Saudis and where the money came from.
On Monday, just a few miles west of downtown Boston ahead of this week’s US Open, Mickelson faced a familiar scene and felt as visibly uncomfortable as last week’s session outside London.
Mickelson began with an opening statement that read: “It’s been four months…it’s been a necessary time and opportunity for me to step back a little bit and think a little bit about the future and how best to move forward and prioritize things. It gave me the opportunity to spend time with (his wife) Amy, spend time with my loved ones, and continue some of the therapeutic work on some of the gaps that I certainly have, as well as focus on the best way forward. It has been a positive time in that sense.
“I know that many of you have strong, well, many people, have strong opinions, emotions about my choice to move forward with LIV Golf. I understand and respect it.
One of the pressing issues Mickelson was asked about was the letter he and the other players involved in LIV Golf received from 9/11 families decrying their decisions to side with the Saudis as 15 of the 19 hijackers flights came from this country.
“I would say to anyone who has lost loved ones, lost friends on 9/11, that I have deep empathy for them,” Mickelson said. “I can’t stress that enough. I have the deepest sympathy and empathy for them.
Mickelson was asked if he fears his legacy will be damaged due to his time on the LIV tour.
“I’ve been on the PGA TOUR for over 30 years and I’ve enjoyed my time,” he said. “I appreciated the opportunities it offers. I enjoyed the lifestyle it offers. I have enjoyed the fact that the game of golf through the PGA Tour has been able to bring so much to me and my family. I appreciate that fact.
“During that time, I worked really hard behind the scenes and tried to contribute as a way to show my appreciation, and I also did my best to give back to him. So… I feel good about the efforts I’ve made to try to give back to the game of golf and the Tour, and I’m excited about the opportunity that LIV Golf presents for me and the game of golf in the future. coming
“I did everything I could to help contribute to the game, contribute to the PGA TOUR during my time with them, and that’s all I can do.”
Asked if he was concerned that his massive popularity with fans had been damaged and what his reaction would be if his fans turned their backs on him, Mickelson said: “As far as the fans leaving or whatever, I respect and understand. your opinions — and I understand that you have strong feelings and strong emotions regarding this election, and I certainly respect (and) respect that.
Mickelson has made it clear that his preference is not to walk away from the PGA Tour, that he hopes one day to continue playing PGA Tour events as well as LIV Golf events.
“I worked hard to earn a lifetime membership. I’ve worked hard to give back to the PGA Tour and the game of golf throughout my 30-plus years of professional golf, and I’ve earned that lifetime membership, so I think that should be my choice,” Mickelson said. ” It’s pretty public that I’m suspended along with a bunch of other players, so it would just be speculative going forward. I’m going to play LIV events, I’m going to play the British Open (next month), but anything else would be pure speculation. I don’t know how all this is going to turn out.
“My preference is to be able to choose the path I want, one or the other or both. I gave everything I could to the PGA Tour and the game of golf during my 30 years here, and thanks to my accomplishments on the course, I earned a lifetime membership. I plan to keep this and then choose which events to play and which not to play in the future.
Mickelson was asked what drew him to the LIV Golf series.
“There is an obvious incredible financial commitment, but more than that, for all the players involved and everyone involved, there are other factors (like) with fewer tournaments it allows me to have more balance in my life,” he said. “It allows me to do things off the golf course that I’ve always wanted to do. I find that prioritizing those who are important to me, people who are important to me in the future, allows me to spend more time with them, be more present and share more life experiences outside of golf.
“I think there are a lot of things about LIV Golf that are transformative,” Mickelson continued. “Two in particular are a unique and different format from a format that has been the same for half a century or more, and I think moving tournaments around the world and bringing this type of championship golf to different parts of the world will have a very big effect. positive. global effect on sport.
When asked how he feels about the ‘hit’ he’s taken since joining LIV Golf, Mickelson said: “I respect that everyone has their opinion, and that makes a lot of people have strong emotions for and against, and I respect the opinions that everyone has.
Mickelson didn’t leave until he was asked about his new look, with scruffy facial hair that we’ve never seen in public.
“Amy loved it, so as long as she loves it, it’s here,” he said. “When she says she’s turned on, she’s turned on.”