Rory McIlroy said Wednesday he expects six-time major winner Phil Mickelson to bounce back from the comments on the proposed Saudi-backed Super League that cost him sponsors and a return to the US PGA Tour.
The Northern Ireland star was among those who were critical of Mickelson’s comments, as relayed by author Alan Shipnuck via the Fire Pit Collective website.
Mickelson, 51, called the Saudi partners “scary” but said he was willing to overlook what he called a “horrible record on human rights.”
He cited the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and said he wasn’t even sure if he wanted the proposed Super League to survive — but he wanted to use it for leverage against the PGA Tour.
Mickelson has slammed the “strong arm tactics” of the US Tour and commissioner Jay Monahan, saying tour financial policies rob players of deserved money-making opportunities.
“As nice a guy as (PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan) comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage,” Mickelson said.
A string of sponsors dropped Mickelson, and fellow US PGA Tour pros criticized him.
McIlroy himself called Mickelson’s comments “naive, egotistical, selfish, ignorant.”
But speaking to reporters on Wednesday before the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida, McIlroy was more conciliatory.
“It is unfortunate,” McIlroy said. “I think Phil has been a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf, still is a wonderful ambassador.”
In apologizing for his comments, Mickelson acknowledged that they were “reckless” but added that he thought he was making them off the record.
He said he would be taking a break from golf.
“We all make mistakes,” McIlroy added. “We all say things we want to take back. No one is different in that regard. But we should be allowed to make mistakes, and we should be allowed to ask for forgiveness and for people to forgive us and move on.
“Hopefully he comes back (to the US PGA Tour) at some stage and he will. And people will welcome him back and be glad that he is back.”
While McIlroy said at the Genesis Invitational last month that he thought the proposed Super League wouldn’t get off the ground, he said Wednesday that he could see a global tour developing in the future.
“I certainly think there’s been steps taken that have got us closer to that point,” he said.
“Obviously, this strategic alliance between DP World Tour and the PGA Tour, PGA Tour buying a stake in European Tour Productions, Jay (Monahan) having a seat on the board in Europe, they’re certainly working much closer together, which is a great thing,” he said. “I think it needs to be that way.
“The game of professional golf, everyone needs to be trying to pull in the same direction instead of pulling against each other. I think we’re getting closer to that spot.
“It might still be two tours running side by side parallel to each other, but basically it would be a global tour, a global schedule.