Phil Mickelson claims he has “the deepest sorrow and understanding” for the families of 9/11 victims and others who survived the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York after they chastised him for participating in the LIV Invitational Golf Series.
In citing Saudi Arabia’s prominent role in the terror attack – Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis – Terry Strada, the chair of 9/11 Families United whose husband died in the attacks, wrote: “Whether it was the appeal of millions of dollars of hard cash, or just the opportunity to prosecute your professional grievances with the PGA, you have sold us out. This is a betrayal not only of us, but of all your countrymen.”
The competition is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), prompting Mickelson and the other Americans who participated in the series to be accused of “betraying” the victims in a sharply worded letter from a renowned support group.
Mickelson was asked to explain his decision at an awkward press conference ahead of this week’s US Open at The Country Club in Brookline and expressed his sympathy, although he refused to say whether he would speak to the families directly.
“I have the deepest of sympathy and empathy for them.”
“I would say to the Strada family, I would say to everyone that has lost loved ones, lost friends on 9/11 that I have deep, deep empathy for them. I can’t emphasise that enough,” he said.
‘I certainly respect Rory’
Mickelson insists he still respects Rory McIlroy, who won the Canadian Open on Sunday, and all those who have questioned his decision to join the LIV Invitational Golf Series.
The 51-year-old confirmed his switch ahead of last week’s inaugural tournament at Centurion Club and has, as a result, been suspended from competing on the PGA Tour.
He admitted the “financial commitment” of LIV Golf was a factor in his decision to join the series, but insisted he still wants to continue to play on the PGA Tour despite his ban. “I certainly respect Rory,” he said. “I thought what a great finish yesterday and great accomplishment and what a career he has had. I certainly respect him. I respect his ideas. I respect all the players that choose to stay on the PGA Tour.
“I certainly think extremely highly of many of the players on the PGA Tour and their right to their own decisions. “I gave as much back to the PGA Tour and the game of golf that I could throughout my 30 years here, and through my accomplishments on the course I’ve earned a lifetime membership. I intend to keep that and then choose going forward which events to play and not.”
But speaking about his reasons for joining LIV Golf, he added: “I think that there’s an obvious incredible financial commitment, but more than that – for all the players involved and everyone involved, there are other factors that with fewer tournaments, it allows me to have more balance in my life. It allows me to do things that are off the golf course I’ve always wanted to do. “I find that as I prioritise those that are important to me, people that are important to me going forward, this allows me to have more time with them, be more present, and to share more life experiences outside of golf.”
“I think that their excitement and energy is what creates such a great atmosphere, so whether it’s positive or negative towards me directly, I think it’s going to provide an incredible atmosphere to hold this championship. I think it’s going to be a great event, and the people here have a lot to do with that.” Six-times major winner Phil Mickelson will tee off with Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa on Thursday as he begins his 30th attempt to win the U.S. Open.
He said: “I think the Boston crowds are some of the best in sports, and I think that they have given me a lot of support, and I’m very appreciative of that over the years. Mickelson appreciative of Boston support
Mickelson will be making his latest bid to complete a career Grand Slam of the majors this week at the US Open, live on Sky Sports Golf, and hopes to receive a good reception from the fans despite the current furore.
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