Phil Mickelson has issued a surreal denial.
Mickelson was speaking to the media at this week’s LIV Golf tournament in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Thursday. He was asked about how he “made some comments about this country, for which you’ve apologized” and if he’s changed his opinion about Saudi Arabia.
“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 nothing but the utmost respect for everybody that I’ve been involved with,” Mickelson said.
Shipnuck is Mickelson’s biographer. Before Mickelson joined LIV Golf, Shipnuck attributed him as saying of the Saudis that “They’re scary motherf–kers to get involved with. 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.”
Shortly after these comments were released, Mickelson issued a lengthy apology that said in part, “There is the problem of off the record comments being shared out of context and without my consent, but the bigger issue is that I used words I sincerely regret that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions.”
The distinction Mickelson appears to be making here is that a conversation that he characterized as “off the record” was not an “interview.”
Mickelson ultimately joined LIV Golf on a deal that was reportedly worth about $200 million guaranteed.
Later, Shipnuck alleged that LIV CEO and commissioner Greg Norman had him “physically removed” from Mickelson’s LIV press conference in June at the Centurion Club outside of London.
Shipnuck also wasn’t the only target of Mickelson’s comments on Thursday, with the 52-year-old six-time major winner saying that he was glad he was on the “winning side” of the ongoing battle between LIV and the PGA Tour and that he sees the PGA Tour trending downward.
“I think going forward you have to pick a side,” Mickelson said. “You have to pick what side do you think is going to be successful. And I firmly believe that I’m on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf.
“We play against a lot of the best players in the world on LIV and there are a lot of the best players in the world on the PGA Tour. And … until both sides sit down and have a conversation and work something out, both sides are going to continue to change and evolve. And I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards and I love the side that I’m on.”