Of all the missteps that contributed to Phil Mickelson’s stunning transformation into a PGA Tour pariah, it was a press conference that solidified his new lot in life.
Normally at ease holding forth with reporters, Mickelson leaned on rehearsed language to issue a series of feeble deflections days before he made his return from a four-month hiatus at the U.S. Open. But a question about a letter penned by a Sept. 11 widow condemning Mickelson and his LIV Golf cohorts for their tacit endorsement of Saudi sportswashing wasn’t so easily evaded.
“I think I speak for pretty much every American in that we feel the deepest of sympathy and the deepest of empathy for those that have lost loved ones, friends in 9/11,” Mickelson said. “It affected all of us, and those that have been directly affected, I think I can’t emphasize enough how much empathy I have for them.”
Last week, the same families whose loved ones perished on that dark day expressed their gratitude for the PGA Tour loyalists who listened to their conscience while chastising Mickelson and his like for misplacing theirs.
“To those many of you who chose to remain loyal to the PGA Tour — and did not defect to the Saudi Arabia-bankrolled LIV Golf Series — we thank you and the sponsors who support you,” read an open letter signed by nearly 2,500 family members of victims. “Thank you for standing up for decency. Thank you for standing up for the 9/11 Families. Thank you for resisting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to cleanse its reputation by buying off professional athletes.”
The letter continued: We know that not all of you are millionaires, and that you compete to win tournaments, fame, and glory. We appreciate and applaud your spirit, drive, and talents, and believe that is all part of what makes competitive sports great.
“Some of your fellow PGA Tour members have traded their dreams of earned success for easy money — indeed, blood money — whether they need those funds or not. They include some of the richest in the field, who justify their roles in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to sportswash by simply, and astoundingly, looking the other way. They do so casually when asked the hard questions or are faced with the uncomfortable truth: That they are helping one of the world’s worst regimes paper over its crimes.”