Phil Mickelson has apologised for “reckless” comments he made about the proposed Saudi Super League and says he will be taking a break from golf.
ickelson admitted to using the Saudi Golf League plan as attempted leverage against the PGA Tour. “They execute people over there for being gay,” Mickelson said. “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.”
Rory McIlroy afterwards castigated Mickelson, branding his words “naive, selfish, egotistical, ignorant”.
Last night, Mickelson said: “Although it doesn’t look this way now, given my recent comments, my actions throughout this process have always been with the best interest of golf, my peers, sponsors, and fans.
“There is the problem of off-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. 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.
“Golf desperately needs change, and real change is always preceded by disruption. I have always known that criticism would come with exploring anything new. I still chose to put myself at the forefront of this to inspire change, taking the hits publicly to do the work behind the scenes.
“Despite my belief that some changes have already been made within the overall discourse, I know I need to be accountable. I’ve worked to compete at the highest level, be available to media, represent my sponsors with integrity, engage with volunteers and sign every autograph for my incredible fans.
“I have experienced many successful and rewarding moments that I will always cherish, but I have often failed myself and others too. The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level. I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritise the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.”
Meanwhile, Pádraig Harrington has a chance to become just the ninth man to win on the PGA Tour after turning 50 in this week’s Honda Classic.
Craig Stadler, Fred Funk, John Barnum, James Barnes, Davis Love III, Art Wall Jr, Sam Snead and 2021 PGA Championship winner Mickelson are the only players to pull it off.
And Harrington believes the wind factor can help his cause at PGA National, where he beat Daniel Berger in a play-off in 2015, ten years after beating Vijay Singh in sudden-death at nearby Mirasol.
“I think that plays into my hands,” he said. “You’ve got to be mentally strong, committed to your shots, which has been one of my strengths. I’d like to play tournament golf on a course like this every week but I know it would beat you up eventually.”
Harrington is joined by West Palm Beach-based Shane Lowry.
But while four of the world’s top 10 — Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson — have snubbed the event again, despite living nearby, host Jack Nicklaus is unconcerned.
“The Honda sits in a tough place,” Nicklaus said. “A lot are going to go to Bay Hill (next week) because of their respect for Arnold. They play TPC (Sawgrass) following that. They can’t play all those weeks. I understand that. I couldn’t play all those weeks.”
In Egypt, Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell fired an eagle and five birdies in a bogey-free 65 to share the first-round lead with France’s Pierre Pineau in the Alps Tour’s Ein Bay Open.
Mallow’s James Sugrue and Naas’s Jonathan Yates are tied for 44th on level par after 72s, with David Carey, Gary Hurley and Paul McBride 68th after 73s and Simon Bryan and Luke Donnelly 94th after 76s.
Meanwhile, Paul Dunne has joined former Walker Cup team-mate Grant Forrest at Edinburgh-based management company Bounce Sport.
Elsewhere, Bangor’s David Feherty will host Tiger Woods’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony on March 9.
“It’s a really cool thing for me to get to do,” Feherty told Yahoo Sports. “It’s been such an incredible journey, the last 25 years of being with him on the golf course, on and off.
“It was just a thrill, but at the same time, he made me feel stupid so many times because he did things you weren’t meant to be able to do. I knew what any given player could do from any given situation. A couple of times, I just looked like a f***ing idiot.”z