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Phil Mickelson to play in Saudi-backed LIV Golf’s first tournament

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Phil Mickelson officially announced Monday he will be joining the PGA Tour’s rival golf league following months of speculation and blowback for his support for the Saudi-funded organization.

Mickelson said he will be at LIV Golf’s first tournament this week in London at the Centurion Golf Club with $25 million in prize money and $4 million going to the winner.

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Phil Mickelson of USA and Greg Norman, CEO of Liv Golf Investments interact during a practice round prior to the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Feb. 2, 2022 in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia.

Phil Mickelson of USA and Greg Norman, CEO of Liv Golf Investments interact during a practice round prior to the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Feb. 2, 2022 in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia.
(Luke Walker/WME IMG/WME IMG via Getty Images)

In his statement, Mickelson apologized for seemingly brushing off Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamaal Khashoggi. He hadn’t appeared in a golf tournament since the comments he made to author Alan Shipnuck, which were a part of his unauthorized biography.

“First and foremost, I want to again apologize to the many people I offended and hurt with my comments a few months ago. I have made mistakes in my career in some of the things I have said and done. Taking time away and self-reflecting has been very humbling. I needed to start prioritizing the people that I love the most and work on becoming a better version of myself,” Mickelson’s statement read. “I have spent this time with Amy and loved ones. I have been engaged and intentional in continued therapy and feel healthy and much more at peace. I realize I still have a away to go, but I am embracing the work ahead.”

KEVIN NA’S LIV GOLF DECISION LEAVES PGA TOUR STARS PUZZLED

Mickelson said he was ready for a “fresh start.”

PGA Championship: Phil Mickelson during Sunday play at Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course. Kiawah Island, SC.

PGA Championship: Phil Mickelson during Sunday play at Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course. Kiawah Island, SC.
(Rick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

“I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career and is clearly transformative, not just for myself, but ideally for the game and my peers. I also love the progressive format and think it will be exciting for fans. Just as importantly, it will provide balance, allowing me to focus on a healthier approach to life on and off the course. I am incredibly grateful for what this game and the PGA Tour has given me. I would like to think that I have given back as well but now I am excited about this new opportunity.

“I am thrilled to begin with LIV Golf and I appreciate everyone involved. I also intend to play the majors. I fully realize and respect some may disagree with this decision and have strong opinions and I empathize with that. I have a renewed spirit and excitement for the game. I am incredibly grateful for the support of my fans, partners, friends, and peers and I hope in time, those sentiments, relationships, and support continue.”

Mickelson will be joining Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and three other former champions in the 54-hole tournament.

It’s “Lefty’s” first tournament since Feb. 6 at Saudi International, when he accused the PGA Tour of having “obnoxious greed.” In comments to Shupnick, Mickelson said it was worth getting into LIV Golf regardless of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Nov 11, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phil Mickelson reacts after missing his putt from just off the 18th hole during the first round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship golf tournament at Phoenix

Nov 11, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phil Mickelson reacts after missing his putt from just off the 18th hole during the first round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship golf tournament at Phoenix
(Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports)

He later apologized for the remarks but skipped the Masters and the PGA Championship — the latter of which he won in 2021.

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“His contributions to the sport and connection to fans around the globe cannot be overstated, and we are grateful to have him,” LIV Golf Commissioner Greg Norman said of Mickelson. “He strengthens an exciting field for London where we’re proud to launch a new era for golf.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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