Phil Mickelson is in deep.
That’s really the only way to look at his current state of affairs, which finds him playing on the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour despite his previous comments to Alan Shipnuck in which he called the Saudi regime, among other things, “scary motherf***ers.”
Once those hit the world, Mickelson went from trying to play both sides of the PGA Tour/LIV Golf game to his benefit to losing whatever leverage he had. Clandestinely suspended by the PGA Tour, losing sponsorships left and right, Mickelson chose to go all-in with LIV, even though that meant working for people who don’t tolerate dissent. Like, REALLY don’t tolerate it.
Mickelson’s statement on the remarks included a semi-apology while also claiming the conversation with Shipnuck was off the record, which Shipnuck denied. In the months since, Phil has shown the exact amount of contrition or self-awareness you’d expect someone to show when they have hundreds of millions of dollars riding on showing zero contrition or self-awareness.
It’s been a stunning fall from grace, going from a victorious, aging gladiator at the PGA Championship in May of 2021 to today, giving a press conference in Jeddah for the LIV finale while sporting a henna tattoo of his own logo and outright denying reality.
Interesting moment from Phil's LIV presser in Saudi Arabia. Asked about his previous comments about Saudi, he answers:
"So I will reiterate, I never did an interview with Alan Shipnuck." pic.twitter.com/fLIrlkyJe5
— Dylan Dethier (@dylan_dethier) October 13, 2022
“I will reiterate, I never did an interview with Alan Shipnuck. And I find that my experience with everybody associated with LIV Golf has been nothing but incredibly positive and I have the utmost respect for everybody that I’ve been involved with.”
That line about not doing an interview is a pretty clear attempt to thread a needle where he can maintain plausible deniability to his current overlords while also not outright lying to the world, but let’s be clear: he’s pretty much lying. Shipnuck is a veteran reporter who has treated Phil with respect and even-handedness, to the point that some have suggested he’s being too soft on LIV in general. He certainly didn’t make up the quotes, which is what Phil would have you believe with his wording.
Rather, Phil is trying to suggest that while still hiding behind the “off the record” assertion made in his original apology, which also fails to track. It’s outright absurdism, which has become Phil’s entire brand at this point, represented impossibly well by the henna logo on his left hand.
There’s no real path back, either, at this point. There’s no world where LIV becomes embraced by the masses via paid programming and Mickelson is hailed as a conquering hero or liberator of the poor* PGA Tour rank and file, which is what some LIV defenders/bots would have the world think.
And there’s also no path where LIV fails spectacularly and Mickelson gets to return to playing 20 events per year with some memorable Augusta weekend runs and a few Ryder Cup captainships. This is just who he is now.
It’d be sad if it weren’t so hard to feel sorry for him.
[image via Dylan Dethier on Twitter]