Pro golfer Phil Mickelson faces backlash for comments about Saudi-backed golf league

The championship golfer was dropped by longtime sponsor KPMG.

February 22, 2022, 10:54 PM

Professional golfer Phil Mickelson has apologized for comments he made supporting a Saudi Arabia-backed golf tour, after they appeared to cost him one his biggest sponsors.

The global tax firm KPMG said Tuesday it had dropped its sponsorship of Mickelson in the midst of Mickelson's ongoing feud with the PGA Tour over a controversial splinter league backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

The move follows the publication earlier this month of backlash-inducing comments Mickelson made in November to author Alan Shipnuck, in which Mickelson expressed no reservations about working with the Saudis despite the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which a United Nations probe determined was a "premeditated execution" for which Saudi Arabia was responsible.

"They're scary ... to get involved with," Mickelson told Shipnuck about working with the Saudis on the new league. "We know they killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates."

PHOTO: In this Oct. 17, 2018, file photo, Turkish police forensic experts arrive at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
In this Oct. 17, 2018, file photo, Turkish police forensic experts arrive at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
Yasin Akgul/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

On Tuesday, Mickelson apologized for those comments even as he suggested they had been taken out of context.

"I'm deeply sorry for my choice of words," Mickelson in a statement on social media. "I apologize for anything I said that was taken out of context."

"The specific people I have worked with are visionaries and have only been supportive," he said. "My intent was never to hurt anyone and I'm so sorry to the people I have negatively impacted."

"The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level," he added. "I desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love and work on being the man I want to be."

A spokesperson for KPMG told ABC News on Tuesday that the company and Mickelson have decided to part ways.

"KPMG U.S. and Phil Mickelson have mutually agreed to end our sponsorship effective immediately," said Ichiro Kawasaki in a statement. "We wish him the best."

PHOTO: Phil Mickelson stands on the 13th hole during day three of the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Feb. 5, 2022, in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia.
Phil Mickelson stands on the 13th hole during day three of the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Feb. 5, 2022, in Al Murooj, Saudi Arabia.
Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

Later Tuesday, a spokesperson for Heineken USA said that Amstel Light had also ended its partnership with Mickelson.

"We made the decision to go our separate ways and end Amstel Light’s partnership with Phil Mickelson," said the spokesperson. "We wish him all the best."

Representatives of the Saudi Public Investment Fund did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

None of the other sponsors listed on Mickelson's website, including Workday, Callaway, and Rolex, have commented on the matter.

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