Golf ace Mickelson ‘calls Saudis scary motherf*****s’
Golf icon Phil Mickelson has allegedly called Saudi Arabians "scary motherf*****s to get involved with" in an interview and mentioned the alleged mistreatment of homosexuals in the Kingdom and the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi as part of a reported discussion of the Saudi Golf League (SGL).
The SGL has dominated headlines in golf recently with a new competition series set to be led by golf icon Greg Norman. Via funding from LIV Golf Investments, where Norman is the CEO, and which has backing from the Saudi state and the Public Investment Fund that recently purchased a majority share in Newcastle United, the league is attempting to lure some of golf's best talent away from the DP World Tour and PGA Tour.
Mickelson was approached by the SGL and told Golf Channel that the PGA Tour is guilty of "obnoxious greed".
In his upcoming biography, Mickelson is now widely reported to have called the Saudis "scary motherf*****s to get involved with" and claimed that he had only flirted with the SGL to pressure the PGA Tour.
"We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights," Mickelson reportedly said in one extract from the book, referencing the Washington Post reporter who was allegedly killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, who chairs the Public Investment Fund.
"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."
In his original criticism of the PGA Tour, Mickelson told Golf Digest that "it's not public knowledge, all that goes on" and said players "don't have access to their own media".
"If the Tour wanted to end any threat, they could just hand back the media rights to the players,” Mickelson claimed. "But they would rather throw $25 million here and $40 million there than give back the roughly $20 billion in digital assets they control. Or give up access to the $50-plus million they make every year on their own media channel."
"The media rights are but a small fraction of everything else. And it is the Tour’s obnoxious greed that has really opened the door for opportunities elsewhere."
Reacting to Mickelson's remarks, an anonymous PGA Tour executive rejected Mickelson's claims.
"I’ve never seen anybody be really interested in how we generate the money,” the executive was quoted as saying.
“There’s some conversation about it now because, you know, Phil’s making stuff up that’s just not true. But in general, they’re [the professionals on the Tour] happy that there’s a lot of money that comes from it.”
As players who sign up for the breakaway SGL run the risk of a lifetime ban from the PGA, some of Mickelson's fellow pros have also distanced themselves from his outburst.
"It seems a pretty egotistical statement. He’s done a lot of great things for the PGA Tour. It’s a big reason it is where it is," said world number eight Justin Thomas to The Telegraph.
"I’ve heard way too much talk about a lot of players that are so 'done' with everything [on the PGA Tour]. But they keep hanging around – so clearly they’re not too done."
"Phil doesn’t speak for us and he doesn’t speak for me," said Mickelson's practice partner, Joel Dahmen. "This game has given him so much and the Tour has given him so much and he’s fighting back now at 51 years old. It kind of seems like a weird spot."
One of the outlets to carry the extract, the Mirror, said The Greg Norman Company and the PGA Tour were yet to respond to a request for comment on the row.