Phil Mickelson stands firm on LIV Golf decision as he addresses 9/11 families’ criticism

‘He has his opinion, I have mine’ – Tiger Woods on Phil Mickelson controversy

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Phil Mickelson has defended his decision to join the LIV golf series and responded to criticism over his choice from families of 9/11 victims. The six-time major winner has been at the centre of the controversial breakaway circuit, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is furthering its western sports investments after purchasing Newcastle United last year.

Those involved are set to play in all eight events of the series and each event will feature a $25m (£20m) prize purse. Mickelson and the US players involved have been subject to a damning letter from a from, a coalition of families and survivors of the 2001 terrorist attacks, expressing their outrage with their decision to participate.

But when asked to explain to the 9/11 families, including Terry Strada, why he’s decided to join LIV golf, Mickelson didn’t directly answer the question. “I would say to everyone whose lost loved ones and friends in 9/11 that I have deep empathy for them,” the 51-year-old said. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”

The message expressed their outrage toward the golfers for participating in the new league and accused them of sportswashing and betraying the US. “As a freedom-loving American, I am grateful to have the freedom of choice where I work and who I work for, and I respect your right as well,” wrote Terry Strada, the organisation’s national chair and a mother of three whose husband, Tom, was on the 104th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center during the horrific attacks.

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“As a 9/11 widow, I feel compelled to help you understand the level of depravity the Kingdom engaged in when it knowingly sent government agents here to establish the support network needed for those hijackers,” they continued. “As you may know, Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis. It was the Saudis who cultivated and spread the evil, hate-filled Islamist ideology that inspired the violent jihadists to carry out the deadly 9/11 attacks.

“And, most egregiously, it is the Kingdom that has spent 20 years in denial: lying about their activities, and cowardly dodging the responsibility they bear. Yet these are your partners, and much to our disappointment, you appear pleased to be in business with them. Given Saudi Arabia’s role in the death of our loved ones and those injured on 9/11—your fellow Americans—we are angered that you are so willing to help the Saudis cover up this history in their request for ‘respectability.’

“When you partner with the Saudis, you become complicit with their whitewash, and help give them the reputational cover they so desperately crave—and are willing to pay handsomely to manufacture. The Saudis do not care about the deep-rooted sportsmanship of golf or its origins as a gentleman’s game built upon core values of mutual respect and personal integrity. They care about using professional golf to whitewash their reputation, and they are paying you to help them do it.” 


Golf stars such as Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy voiced their disappointment with their colleagues for defecting to the breakaway circuit worth £200 million.

Responding to the reactions from golfers on the PGA Tour for him to join LIV, Mickelson said: “I have a lot of friendships on the PGA Tour…I respect that they disagree. This was the right decision.” Mickelson was speaking ahead of this week’s US Open, the one major that has alluded him throughout his career.

When asked if his legacy will be changed by joining LIV Golf, he responded: “I’ve been a part of the PGA Tour for 30-plus years. I enjoyed the opportunities it has provided.” He is excited to see what the future holds for the circuit and confirmed he will play in all eight LIV events and the Open Championship next month.

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