Phil Mickelson will miss the tournament for the first time in 28 years – with the absence of the US PGA champion announced a month after remarks he made about Saudi Arabia emerged
Phil Mickelson © Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
US PGA champion Phil Mickelson is set to miss leading golf tournament the Masters for the first time in 28 years – with his absence emerging a month after controversial remarks he made about the Saudi Arabia-backed Super Golf League (SGL) became public.
Three-time Masters winner Mickelson has been listed on the tournament website as a ‘past champion not playing’ ahead of the start of play at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on April 7.
The 45-time event winner, who has earned millions of dollars in prize money during his celebrated career, had given his backing to the SGL.
The league is owned by the LIV Golf company, which is funded by the Public Investment Fund – the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.
Golf journalist Alan Shipnuck shared an interview with Mickelson in February in which the 51-year-old called crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s regime “scary motherf*ckers to get involved with.”
“We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and US resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights,” Shipnuck quoted Mickelson as saying.
“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.”
Mickelson subsequently released an apology. “I used words I sincerely regret that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions,” he said.
“It was reckless – I offended people and I am deeply sorry for my choice of words. I’m beyond disappointed and will make every effort to self-reflect and learn from this.
“I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and many have been shared with the public. My intent was never to hurt anyone and I’m so sorry to the people I have negatively impacted.
View this post on Instagram
“This has always been about supporting the players and the game and I appreciate all the people who have given me the benefit of the doubt.”
Mickelson is currently taking a break from golf and has not played since the Saudi International tournament in February.
“The specific people I have worked with are visionaries and have only been supportive,” he said in an apparent reiteration of his backing for the SGL.
“More importantly, they passionately love golf and share my drive to make the game better.”
A debutant at the Masters in 1991, Mickelson has played every year since 1994, winning in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
He has previously accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed” and operating like a “dictatorship”.
The veteran endured widespread criticism following the reports of his remarks about the SGL, which many players have said they will not join despite individual prize money said to be as high as $20 million for single events.
“I don’t want to kick someone while he’s down, obviously, but I thought they were naive, selfish, egotistical, ignorant,” said rival Rory McIlroy, who has distanced himself from Saudi Arabia.