Phil Mickelson insists he ‘doesn’t condone human rights violations’ after leading Saudi-backed LIV Golf breakaway

The six-time major winner heads up the field alongside Dustin Johnson at Centurion Club this weekend

Mickelson defends decision to play in breakaway Saudi league

Phil Mickelson insists he “does not condone human rights violations” ahead of the first event of the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The six-time major champion tees it up at Centurion Club this week after a four-month break from the game following controversial comments about the new breakaway tour.

He described the Saudis as “scary m************” and said he was well aware of Saudi Arabia’s “horrible record on human rights” – including the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi – in an interview with the author of a new unauthorised biography earlier this year.

Yet he added that working with the Saudis was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates”, also accusing the Tour of “obnoxious greed”.

Mickelson is among the 48-strong field in the $25m (£20m) event led by Greg Norman in St Albans and the American was immediately questioned on Saudi Arabia’s much-criticised human rights record.

“I don't condone human rights violations at all,” said 51-year-old. “I am aware of what happened with Jamal Khashoggi and it's terrible.

“I understand people may disagree with my decision. I see the opportunity LIV Golf has to do a lot of good for the world.

“At this time, this is an opportunity to have the most balance in my life going forward and this will do a lot of good for the game.”

Mickelson would not confirm or deny if he has served a PGA Tour suspension, but did confirm he is “looking forward” to playing at next week’s US Open.

“I choose not to speak publicly on PGA Tour issues at this time.”

The 2021 PGA Championship champion also discussed his future in the Ryder Cup.

Mickelson said: “Like the PGA Tour, the Ryder has provided so many special memories, relationships and friendships, I’m hopeful to be a part of the Ryder Cup going forward, but that’s not the reason to retain my membership, it’s because I’ve earned it. I believe all players have the right to play whenever and wherever they want.

“I saw that [Dustin Johnson and others resigning from the PGA Tour], I believe they’re making the best decision for their careers. As a lifetime member I don’t have to play 15 events, I don’t have to play any. I don’t see why I should give that up.”

Mickelson also addressed his well-documented issues with gambling, confirming it could have “threatened” the financial health of his family’s future.

“I've had hundreds of hours of therapy,” confirmed Mickelson. “I feel really good where I'm at, I'm proud of the work I've done, I've addressed the issue and will continue to do for the rest of my life.”

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