Mickelson, 51, is back in the game after taking a break in the hubbub over his comments on the Saudis and the LIV series. He refused to clear up the question of whether the PGA Tour had suspended him. “I have a lot of strong opinions on things that should and could be a lot better,” Mickelson said. “One of the mistakes I’ve made is voicing those publicly. So I will really make an effort to keep those conversations behind closed doors going forward. I think that’s the way to be the most efficient and get the most out of it.”
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Sporting a scruffy beard, the six-time major champion frequently paused to weigh his words before answering. He declined to say whether reports that he would receive $200 million for playing in the eight LIV Golf events were accurate and repeated that he does “not condone human rights violations.” Mickelson’s comments on the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other human rights violations had prompted a strong backlash against a golfer who has been one of the most popular American athletes for years. The Saudis have denied involvement in Khashoggi’s death.
“I don’t condone human rights violations at all,” Mickelson said. “Nobody here does, throughout the world. I’m certainly aware of what’s happened with Jamal Khashoggi, and I think it’s terrible. I’ve also seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history, and I believe that LIV Golf is going to do a lot of good for the game as well. I’m excited about this opportunity, and that’s why I’m here.”
Mickelson has not played in a PGA Tour event since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. The absence followed his comments to biographer Alan Shipnuck that he was willing to overlook Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
“They’re scary motherf—–s to get involved with,” Mickelson said. “We know they killed [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.”
On Wednesday, Mickelson declined to address those and other comments to Shipnuck but said he has “said and done a lot of things that I regret. I’m sorry for that and sorry for the hurt it caused a lot of people.” He pointed out that his four-month break was something he hadn’t had in more than 30 years.
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“I’ve had an opportunity to spend time with my wife, Amy, and spend time traveling to parts of the world, spend time at a place we have in Montana skiing and hike in Sedona. It’s given me time to continue some of the work and therapy in areas where I’m deficient in my life,” he said. “It’s given me time to reflect what I want to do going forward and what’s best for me and what’s best for the people I care about.”
He intends to play the four majors (the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and British Open), which are not operated by the PGA Tour. The U.S. Golf Association puts on the U.S. Open, and it announced Tuesday that anyone who qualified for next week’s tournament at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., will be allowed to play.