Phil Mickelson apologized Tuesday for comments about the Saudis and a distinguished golfer, which he claimed were unpublishable and not meant to be shared publicly.
Mickelson also said in a statement that he has felt the pressure and stress that has affected him on a deeper level over the past 10 years and needs time away. However, he did not say if he would take a break from golf. “I am very disappointed and will do everything in my power to self-reflection and learn from this,” he said.
KPMG became the first of Michaelson’s corporate sponsors to announce the termination of their partnership, a decision the company said was reciprocal.
Most pernicious in Mickelson’s comments to author and golf writer Alan Shipnock was referring to the Saudis funding a proposed separatist league as a “scary mother.” [expletives]. He also told Shipnuck, who is writing a biography on Mickelson in May, that it would be worth sleeping with the Saudis, despite their history of human rights abuses, if it meant an opportunity to change the PGA Tour.
The interview took place last November.
We know they were killed [Washington Post columnist Jamal] Khashoggi has an appalling human rights record. “They execute people there for being gay,” he said. “Knowing all this, why am I even thinking about it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour works.”
Mickelson said he always puts golf interests first, “although it doesn’t seem that way now given my recent comments.”
“There is a problem with sharing unofficial comments out of context and without my consent,” he said. “But the biggest problem is that I have used words that I sincerely regret and do not reflect my true feelings or intentions.”
From the archive (December 2019): Tiger Woods defends Phil Mickelson’s controversial $3 million decision to play in Saudi Arabia
Shipnuck wrote in the Fire Pit Collective, where he posted Mickelson’s comments last week, that he “never once said our conversation was unpublishable, in the background, just between us, or anything like that. He simply opened the vein.”
Shipnuck tweeted Tuesday that Mickelson’s claim that he spoke informally was “completely false.”
Meanwhile, KPMG said the company and Mickelson had mutually agreed to end the sponsorship that had been in place since 2008. “We wish him the best,” KPMG said in an email.
Mickelson’s statement, received around the same time as KPMG’s announcement, said he gave his partners the option to pause or terminate their relationships “as I understand may be necessary under the current circumstances.”
It remains unclear where Mickelson might play next. “I know I haven’t been my best and I desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be,” he concluded.