Over the past year, LIV Golf has managed to lure dozens of players away from the PGA Tour with the help of the massive bags of cash it harnessed to convince them to make the leap.
Plenty of those defectors have found themselves at the center of controversy and been accused of implicitly aiding Saudi Arabia’s “sportwashing” effort by opting to team up with the league. However, none of them have experienced the kind of heat that Phil Mickelson has endured thanks in no small part to some comments he made a few months before taking his talents to LIV.
In February, Lefty made plenty of waves when reporter Alan Shipnuck published some excerpts from a conversation where Mickelson dubbed LIV Golf’s Saudi Arabian backers “scary motherf—kers” in reference to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi while simultaneously describing the PGA Tour as “a dictatorship” with absolutely no trace of irony to be detected.
Mickelson would eventually issue an apology in which he stated he thought the exchange was off the record and spent some time out of the public eye before reemerging after officially inking a deal with LIV in June—a mea culpa that now stands in stark contrast to what he had to say ahead of the tournament the organization is hosting in Saudi Arabia.
Phil Mickelson now claims he never actually talked to the reporter who published his infamous statements about Saudi Arabia
On Thursday, Mickelson addressed members of the media who gathered at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club outside of Jeddah in what was surely the obligation he was looking forward to more than any other this week.
During the gathering, one reporter asked him if he’s changed his tune concerning Saudi Arabia after getting the chance to spend some time in the country, which resulted in the six-time major winner making a fairly baffling claim about the aforementioned comments.
Interesting moment from Phil's LIV presser in Saudi Arabia. Asked about his previous comments about Saudi, he answers:
"So I will reiterate, I never did an interview with Alan Shipnuck." pic.twitter.com/fLIrlkyJe5
— Dylan Dethier (@dylan_dethier) October 13, 2022
Here’s what he had to say:
“I will reiterate I never did an interview with Alan Shipnuck, and I find that my experience with everybody associated with LIV Golf has been nothing but incredibly positive, and I have the utmost respect for everyone I’ve been involved with.”
When you consider Mickelson reportedly received a $138 million check from the powers that be, it’s not exactly shocking that he decided to toe the company line here. With that said, the fact that he’s gone from apologizing for a supposedly off-the-record interview to denying it ever happened in the first place is quite the development.