Top pro golfer Mickelson loses sponsors for Saudi comments: 'We know they killed Khashoggi'

Mickelson made comments last year to a reporter, says they were shared without consent, out of context

Updated: February 23, 2022 - 10:10am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Pro golfer Phil Mickelson has lost several top endorsements for his sharp criticism about Saudi Arabia – including the kingdom being behind the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mickelson made the comments last year to a reporter regarding a possible new professional golf tour but said they were shared without his consent and out of context.

The so-called Super League is reportedly a proposed, Saudi-backed venture attempting to attract golfers from golf's main tours, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, with offers of big money, according to CNN

"I used words I sincerely regret that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions," Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner, said Tuesday in apologizing for the remarks. "It was reckless. I offended people, and I am deeply sorry for my choice of words."

Mickelson is quoted by Alan Shipnuck for his upcoming book, "Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf's Most Colorful Superstar,” as saying  Saudis are “scary motherf***ers to get involved with.”  

He also said: "We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay."

Khaled Aedh Alotaibi, of Saudi Arabia, was arrested last year in connection with Khashoggi's murder in Turkey, and 25 other Saudis are wanted in connection with the killing.

Former President Trump is reportedly in discussions to host events at his U.S. golf clubs for a golf league backed by Saudi Arabia, but its unclear whether that league was the one to which Michelson was referring.

Mickelson argued that his desire to perhaps be part of a new tour – "despite “knowing all of this" – is because "this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates."

Since making the comments, longtime Mickelson sponsor KPMG said it would no longer be partner with the 51-year-old golfer.

And Heineken told CNN that its Amstel Light brand is ending its relationship with Mickelson.

Mickelson, who along with other pro golfers say changes are needed on the PGA, also suggested in his apology that he’ll now take some time off from the sport. 

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