Phil Mickelson’s US Open press conference hit on everything from Donald Trump, LIV Golf and Saudi Arabia to his therapy and 9/11

BROOKLINE, Mass. – Donald Trump, 9/11, Saudi Arabia’s controversial regime, therapy, gambling problems and self-reflection.

And some golf.

In his first stateside interview since January, Phil Mickelson was on the receiving end of a battering-ram like volley from media members Monday ahead of Thursday’s start of the 122nd US Open at The Country Club.

In 25 minutes, Mickelson, who will be playing in his 30th US Open, was on the receiving end of 32 questions that covered a slew of subjects, the majority stemming from his decision to join LIV Golf, the rival league backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and led by Greg Norman.

Mickelson reportedly received $ 200 million to join the league and was promptly suspended from the PGA Tour by commissioner Jay Monahan shortly after hitting his opening tee shot last week in the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series event in London. He tied for 33rd in the 48-man field and won $ 150,000.

“I wanted to say that it’s nice to be back, nice to see you guys,” were Mickelson’s first words. “It’s been four months. It’s been a necessary time and an opportunity for me to step away a little bit and put a little bit of thought and reflection into going forward and how to best prioritize things. ”

And then came the questions.

Here are a few of them.

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What appeals to you about LIV Golf that you weren’t getting from the PGA Tour?

“I think that there’s an obvious incredible financial commitment, for all the players involved and everyone involved, but more than that, 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 prioritize 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. ”

2022 LIV Golf London

2022 LIV Golf London

Phil Mickelson approaches the 1st hole during the first round of the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational at The Centurion Club near London. (Photo: Matthew Lewis / Getty Images)

In your time away, what did you learn about yourself?

“I think there were a number of things that I’ve certainly learned, but it’s given me more of an opportunity to really prioritize those that I love, those that I care about, and develop a path forward so that I can be more engaged , be more intentional when I’m with the people I care about. Also, have a little bit more balance in my life going forward off the golf course. ”

2022 US Open

2022 US Open

Phil Mickelson speaks in a press conference during a practice round of the US Open golf tournament at The Country Club. (Photo: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)

You’ve played once since February. This is the only major championship you haven’t won despite a record six runner-up finishes. How do you prepare for a tournament you desperately want to win without many reps?

“It’s going to be a brutal test of golf, and that’s what this championship is all about.

So that’s going to be a challenge, right. It’s the most difficult test in golf. I think it was important for me to have a little bit of competitive golf last week and identify some of the areas of weakness. It was one of the worst putting tournaments I’ve had in years.

I spent time yesterday addressing that, which is why I basically putted the whole day on the course. In the offseason I actually made some strides ball-striking-wise, and I’m fairly optimistic there, but it will be a real challenge. These are the best players in the world, and it’s the hardest test of the year. ”

Terry Strada, national chairperson of 9/11 Families United, sent a letter to representatives of players who are playing in LIV Golf, including you, since 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. How do you explain your decision to them to play for LIV Golf?

“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 emphasize that enough. I have the deepest of sympathy and empathy for them. ”

Two of the remaining seven events of the LIV Golf Invitational Series will be played on golf courses owned by Donald Trump. How do you feel about playing on Trump courses?

“I care more about the quality of the test of golf, the quality of the golf course, the fan experience and their ability to see and view the golf, and the challenge of what the venue provides for the players. Risk-reward, exciting to see, birdie opportunities, tough pars. I care more about that. ”

Phil Mickelson at Trump National Doral’s defeated Blue Monster course during Sunday’s final round of the 2014 WGC-Cadillac Championship.

You’ve been one of the most popular players for decades. What if a segment of your fan base would decide not to support you anymore?

“In regard to if fans would leave or whatnot, I respect and I understand their opinions, and I understand that they have strong feelings and strong emotions regarding this choice, and I certainly respect them.”

2022 LIV Golf London

2022 LIV Golf London

Phil Mickelson adjusts his sunglasses during a press conference ahead of the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Series event at The Centurion Club north of London. (Photo by Adrian Dennis / AFP via Getty Images)

The Boston crowd can be pretty vociferous at times. If you do get booed and heckled this week, will that hurt?

“I think the Boston crowds are some of the best in sports, and I think they have given me a lot of support, and I’m very appreciative of that over the years.

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. ”

What does legacy mean to you?

“I would say that I’ve been a part of the PGA Tour now for 30-plus years, and I have enjoyed my time. I’ve enjoyed the opportunities it’s provided. I’ve enjoyed the lifestyle it’s provided. I’ve enjoyed the fact that the game of golf through the PGA Tour has been able to give me and my family so much.

“I’m appreciative of that fact. During that time, I’ve worked really hard behind the scenes as well as on the scenes to try to contribute as a way of showing my appreciation, and I’ve done the best I can give back to it as well. So I feel good about that. I feel good about the efforts I put in to try to give back to the game of golf as well as the Tour, and I’m excited about the opportunity that LIV Golf presents for me and the game of golf going forward. ”

What’s with the facial hair, and is it here to stay?

“Amy liked it, so as long as she likes it, it’s here. When she says it’s gone, it’s gone. ”

2022 US Open

2022 US Open

Phil Mickelson speaks in a press conference during a practice round of the US Open golf tournament at The Country Club. (Photo: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)

Your relationship with the USGA has been a bit tenuous at times. Just curious if you are concerned at all that they will take action in the future to make it harder for you and some of the other guys who are qualified to play in the US Open down the road?

“I think that’s a better question for the USGA, but I would say in regard to issues that I’ve had, I have had strong opinions and ideas, let’s say, regarding most of the governing bodies, and I’ve done a poor job of conveying that. I’ve made it public, and that’s been a mistake. That’s one of the mistakes I’ve been making, and I’ll try to, going forward, be a lot more thoughtful with my words and actions and try to keep a lot of those things behind closed doors. ”

If you are so gung-ho on LIV Golf going forward, why do you still want to play on the PGA Tour?

“I’ve worked hard to earn a lifetime membership. I’ve worked hard to give back to the PGA TOUR and the game of golf throughout my 30 plus years of professional golf, and I’ve earned that lifetime membership, so I believe that it should be my choice. ”

2022 LIV Golf London

2022 LIV Golf London

Phil Mickelson takes questions during a press conference ahead of the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Series event at The Centurion Club north of London. (Photo by Adrian Dennis / AFP via Getty Images)

Are you at all worried that it’s actually damaging the PGA Tour and professional golf in general?

“I believe there’s a lot of things about LIV Golf that are transformative. Two specifically are a unique different format from a format that’s been the same for half a century or more.

And I believe moving tournaments throughout the world and bringing that type of championship golf to different parts of the world is going to have a very positive effect globally on the sport, and those are just two instances of areas I think LIV will do a lot of good for the game. ”

You’ve mentioned a few times using the past four months to better yourself. What specific areas did you need to address?

“There were a lot of ways, but a lot of areas, but as I said earlier, being able to be more present and engaged with those that I love and not being distracted all the time with the game of golf. Being able to step aside and have that time was invaluable.

“I also continued to work on some areas that I’m deficient of in my life. I mean, the obvious one is gambling. I’ve been working on that for years, and I’m very happy with where I’m at with that, but I’ll have to continue to work on that rest of my life. This time allowed me to kind of sit still and work on these areas. But there are a lot more than that. ”

When is the last time you spoke to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan?

“October.”

Jay Monahan

Jay Monahan

PGA commissioner Jay Monahan speaks to media in 2020. (Photo: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports)

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