The last time Phil Mickelson played a professional golf event was in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of February. He's no longer physically in the country, but he is now one of its representatives in London and all over the world.
It was announced this week that Mickelson is part of the LIV Golf league and was undoubtedly paid a tremendous sum of money, even though he dominated the landscape of golf for his comments earlier this year about how the folks running LIV Golf -- namely the Saudi Arabian government -- are a bunch of "scary motherf------."
Mickelson hasn't been seen since those comments emerged in February. He missed the Masters, and he skipped the opportunity to defend his PGA Championship. He insisted on Wednesday, in his first public appearance in four months, that he was allowed to play in both but personally chose to play in neither.
On Tuesday evening, his team, the Hy Flyers, drafted Chase Koepka, Justin Harding and Ratchanon "TK" Chantananuwat in the first-ever team draft for the event that begins on Thursday at 9 a.m. ET in London. On Wednesday, he faced a series of questions from the press covering the inaugural LIV Golf event.
Lefty was not brash with his answers, instead taking more time and thought with each one, especially when he was asked about the source of the funds for which he signed up. The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is the financial arm of a Saudi Arabian government, whose human rights track record looks like most of Mickelson's scorecards from the last few years (horrible marks all the way around).
"I don't condone human rights violations at all," Mickelson said. "Nobody here does, throughout the world. I'm certainly aware of what's happened with Jamal Khashoggi, and I think it's terrible. I've also seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history, and I believe that LIV Golf is going to do a lot of good for the game as well. I'm excited about this opportunity, and that's why I'm here."
This has been a common theme among players who showed up to London. Graeme McDowell gave a similar answer on Tuesday, which was both disgusting and eye-opening as it relates to the real reason players are playing for the Saudi-backed league (money).
"We are golfers," said McDowell. "Speaking personally, I really feel like golf is a force of good in the world. I just try to be a great role model to kids. I know what the game of golf has taught me. I love using the game of golf as something to kind of help grow around the world. That's pretty much what we've been for the last 20 years, being role models for kids and try to use this game, like I say, as a force of good really.
"We are not politicians. I know you guys hate that expression, but we are really not, unfortunately. We are professional golfers. If Saudi Arabia wanted to use the game of golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be and they have the resources to accelerate that experience, I think we are proud to help them on that journey using the game of golf and the abilities that we have to help grow the sport and take them to where they want to be."
"The Khashoggi situation was reprehensible...— Neil Barker (@Mockneyrebel) June 7, 2022
...But we are proud to help Saudi if they want to use #golf to get to where they want to be"@Graeme_McDowell on why he's decided to join the £202m Saudi-backed @LIVGolfInv, despite the country's human rights record... pic.twitter.com/4vQs7xUZCi
In other words, they are paying exorbitant sums of money "as a way for them to get where they want to be." McDowell actually said out loud that he was proud of that. To be clear, there has been no regime change in Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi was murdered. These are the exact same people.
Mickelson also refused to discuss whether he is or is not suspended by the PGA Tour, instead focusing on his time off from the sport.
"I've had a four-month break from the game that I've not had in over three decades," Mickelson said. "I've had an opportunity to spend time with my wife, Amy, and spend time traveling to parts of the world, spend time at a place we have in Montana skiing and a hike in Sedona. It's given me a time to continue some of the work and therapy in areas where I'm deficient in my life. It's given me time to reflect what I want to do going forward and what's best for me and what's best for the people I care about."
The other big issue he addressed was his gambling issue -- which he recently disclosed to Bob Harig of Sports Illustrated had become "reckless and embarrassing" -- and has been widely reported on and even speculated about regarding the reason for his jump to LIV Golf and a massive payday to begin with.
"I've been handling it for many years now," Mickelson said. "Me and my family, we've been financially secure for -- I can't even remember for how long now. But it was certainly going to be threatened if I didn't address this. And I did."
There were not as many fireworks as expected from the six-time major winner, but his presence alone at this event says it all. Though he has not resigned from the PGA Tour like several of his other colleagues and plans to play the U.S. Open next week, Mickelson lends a gravitas to LIV Golf that helps further its success and puts the PGA Tour in an extraordinarily difficult position. Lefty's career has been full of moments when his mouth got ahead of his actions. This was certainly not one of them, but his actions -- spearheading a league he has privately denigrated -- said everything you need to know.