Phil Mickelson fueled speculation that he has been, and may still be, serving a suspension on the PGA Tour when refusing to deny he was hit with a ban because of the Saudi controversy.
In his first press conference in more than four months since causing outrage four months with comments calling the Saudis “scary m ———— to deal with” but admitting he was doing so for leverage over the PGA Tour – on which he has earned almost $ 100million – Mickelson cut a humble figure.
But with Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary acting as a moderator for LIV Golf – the Saudi-funded entity which begins its 255million series that starts here at the Centurion Club on Thursday – Mickelson was fully prepared for the questions concerning the Kingdom and human rights.
The evasion stretched into his responses to the PGA Tour. In February, he accused the Tour commissioner of “running a tyranny” and of “obnoxious greed” in his long-running row with Sawgrass HQ about media rights. He also confessed to helping to pay for lawyers to draw up an operating plan for the Saudi breakaway circuit, an action that was directly in contravention of PGA Tour rules and for which he was liable to face punishment.
The Tour does not publicize its sanctions against players and Mickelson is also remaining tight-lipped. “I choose not to speak publicly on PGA Tour issues at this time,” Mickelson replied when asked if he is or has been serving a ban. While other players here, such as Dustin Johnson and Sergio García, have resigned their PGA Tour memberships in the last week, Mickelson vowed to retain his card.,
“I am a lifetime member and don’t see why I should give that up,” he said. “I have earned it. I don’t need to play a minimum of 15 events. I could just play one. “
Later, the 51-year-old only added to the conjecture that he is when saying he had been told by the Masters and last month’s US PGA Championship – where he would have made history as the oldest defending champion in more than 160 years of the majors – that he would have been able to play.
Instead, he chose to reappear at this $ 25 million LIV opener, for which it is estimated he has received a $ 200million signing-on fee. “I feel like contract agreements should be private,” Mickelson said when quizzed if the figure was correct. “But it doesn’t seem to be that way.”
Mickelson claimed that he “was not ready to play” at the US PGA at Southern Hills three weeks ago, but he will be at Brookline for next week’s US Open, where he will attempt to become just the sixth player in history to complete the grand slam. “I will be there and am looking forward to it,” he said.
No doubt, he will experience a similar inquiry in that Boston press conference and the media should expect the same lines. Telegraph Sport revealed on Tuesday that Fleischer has been briefing the players on what they should say to journalists and Mickelson continuously repeated the line “” I do not condone human rights violations. “
Mickelson conducted an interview with SI.com before arriving in London on Tuesday and again spoke of his “reckless” gambling habits that in one four-year period saw him lose 40 million. But after “hundreds of hours of therapy” he claims his addiction has been fixed and this is not the reason why he is accepting the Saudi millions. “My family has been financially secure now for a long time,” he said. “It was threatened at one point, but the issue has been addressed.”