June 8, 2022
London, England, UK
THE MODERATOR: Good morning everyone, we are joined today by TK, Justin Harding, Phil Mickelson, and Chase Koepka from the team High Flyers.
To kick it off I want to get you guys to react to the draft party last night. I know the media weren't able to attend. What did you guys think? That's the first time there's been a draft in golf.
CHASE KOEPKA: It was pretty exciting the amount of people that there were, all pumped up. It was just a fun thing to be a part of and especially being the first.
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought it went really well and was interesting because I had never been a part of something like that but trying to stay consistent with the deep history of the High Flyers, I really wanted to mix young with old, have a youthful energy combined with older experience and I feel like our team reflects that.
JUSTIN HARDING: Can I just say, Phil picked me thinking I'm in my mid 20s, and this morning he found out that wasn't the case.
No, look, I thought the guys put on a great show. I thought it was awesome. Really cool being part of something new and super stoked Phil picked me as part of his side.
TK CHANTANANUWAT: I think it was amazing. It was insane, probably the coolest event I've ever been regarding to a golf tournament, and considering who I am picked by is one of the coolest things ever.
Q. I know you think that the High Flyers are the best team, but is there anything you fear the most? Who do you think is going to be your toughest competition?
TK CHANTANANUWAT: We're not scared of anyone.
JUSTIN HARDING: We have a good side. TK has obviously been playing unbelievably lately. Yeah, happy to have Phil on my side. He's obviously got a lot of appearances and it should be good fun.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think there's a lot of good teams, certainly, but I don't think we fear anyone, no.
CHASE KOEPKA: Yeah, I'm not really scared of anybody.
PHIL MICKELSON: Bring it.
CHASE KOEPKA: So I know the three guys sitting next to me are all studs. I'm pumped to be here.
Q. A few months ago you were reported as describing the Saudis as "scary." What did you mean by that, and if they are that scary, why are you here given that they are bank rolling this tournament?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, certainly, I've made, said and done a lot of things that I regret, and I'm sorry for that and for the hurt that it's caused a lot of people.
I don't -- I don't condone human rights violations at all. I don't think -- nobody here is does, throughout the world. I'm certainly aware of what has happened with Jamal Khashoggi, and I think it's terrible.
I've also seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history, and I believe that LIV Golf is going to do a lot of good for the game as well. And I'm excited about this opportunity. That's why I'm here.
Q. But isn't there a danger that you're also being seen as a tool of sportswashing; an attempt to try and improve the image of a human rights abusing regime through sport, and that ultimately, you could be seen as a Saudi stooge, and that could tarnish your legacy? Are you comfortable with that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I said earlier, I don't condone human rights violations. I don't know how many I can be any more clear. I understand your question.
But again, I love this game of golf. I've seen the good that it's done, and I see the opportunity for LIV Golf to do a lot of good for the game throughout the world and I'm excited to be a part of this opportunity.
Q. You also spoke about leverage. You used the word "leverage," and here you are sitting, representing the very people you were using to leverage. How do you explain that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've really enjoyed my time on the PGA TOUR. I've had some incredible experiences, some great memories and I have a lot of strong opinions on things that should and could be a lot better. One of the mistakes I've made is voicing those publicly. So I will -- I will really make an effort to keep those conversations behind closed doors going forward. I think that's the way to be the most efficient and get the most out of it.
Q. Can you just clarify, you've apologized again just now, can you just clarify what you're apologizing for? Is it you're sorry for speaking the truth about the Saudis or are you sorry for the shameless hypocrisy of taking their money anyway?
PHIL MICKELSON: I understand people have very strong opinions and may disagree with my decision, and I can empathize with that.
But at this time, this is an opportunity that gives me a chance to have the most balance in my life going forward, and I think this is going to do a lot of good for the game.
Q. Can you tell me if you are serving --
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm sorry?
Q. Can you tell me if you served a ban or are serving a ban with the PGA TOUR?
PHIL MICKELSON: I choose not to speak publicly on PGA TOUR issues at this time.
Q. Can you say if you're going to play in next week's U.S. Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: I will may next week's U.S. Open and I'm looking forward to it.
ARI FLEISCHER: Can I remind you, please state your name and your organization when you ask your question.
Q. You said something in Sports Illustrated interview and you just said it again this morning, what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is awful but you've seen the good game of golf has done throughout history, no matter how successful this tournament can ever be, it can't counteract someone being murdered, can it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Nobody here condones human rights violations, and nobody is trying to make up for anything.
Q. But you said those two statements one after the other, which sort of implies that you feel that one can sort of make up for the other and one of our colleagues used the phrase "sportswashing," and that surely is what that is an attempt to do?
PHIL MICKELSON: There are -- the game of golf I've seen unify and bring people together, and I love that I'm a part of this sport. I love that this game has given me so much. It is fun for me to give back and to bring this game on a global -- throughout the world on a global scale and the opportunities that LIV Golf provides.
I don't know how else I can say it. I don't condone human rights violations. Nobody here does. I don't know how else to say it anymore assertively.
Q. You're talking about this being good for the game of golf, the general perception is that this is all about the money, money for the players. Can you comment on that, what are your thoughts?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't necessarily agree with your premise. But I think that the opportunity that it provides me to play, compete, bring the sport throughout the world, play less, have a better balance in life on and off the golf course; I know that it gives me a lot of positives personally and professionally, and I believe it does the same for everyone else in the field.
Q. A number of your TOUR colleagues have been critical of you. Can I ask how you have responded to some of those criticism, and another one said that you had gone dark during your period --
PHIL MICKELSON: Let's keep it one question at a time. What was your first one?
Q. How do you respond -- how did you feel when colleagues of yours criticized you so publicly, given that you knew them?
PHIL MICKELSON: So I understand how many people are going to have very strong opinions on this, my peers included. I respect their opinions. I can empathize with their -- their feelings, and I'm appreciative to the many peers that have reached out to me and shown their support as well.
Q. My second question is, it was said by one of your colleagues that you had "gone dark," whatever that means, but what have you done for the last four months? Because no one's seen you.
PHIL MICKELSON: I have had an awesome time. I have had a four-month break from the game that I have not had in over three decades. I've had an opportunity to spend time with my wife, Amy, a bunch, and travel parts of the world and spend time at a place we have in Montana skiing, and hike in Sedona, what a beautiful place that is. It's given me time to continue some of the work and therapy I've been working on in some areas that I've been deficient in my life. It's given me time to reflect on what I want to do going forward or what's best for me, what's best for the people I care about.
And this is an opportunity that allows me to still have golf in my life, but also have a balance where I can be more present, I can be more engaged with the people I really care about. And that is -- that is why when I think about being a part of LIV Golf, I feel so good about it.
Q. Do you feel you've got a future on the PGA TOUR, and do you even want one now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have been a part of the TOUR for over 30 years, and I've had a lot of incredible memories that have been formed and experiences that I've shared. Tournaments that I've won and been a part of; tournaments that I've lost and been a part of, and also, I've gained a lot. I've received a lot from the PGA TOUR and I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful for everything the PGA TOUR and the game of golf has provided for me and my family.
I've also worked really hard to contribute and try to build and add value to the TOUR during my time there, and I worked really hard to earn a lifetime exemption. And I -- I don't want to give that up. I don't believe I should have to. I don't know what that means for a future, but I don't know what's going to happen. But I've earned that, and I don't plan on just giving it up.
Q. When your comments to Alan Shipnuck were made public in February, how much of a turning point did they prove in your life? How much of a jolt were they to you, because clearly you disappeared from public life, and I just wonder what you've gone through in that process over and above obviously the travels that you've described?
PHIL MICKELSON: So I shared with you all that most of what I've done during that time, and regarding anything with Alan, I really don't have any comments at this time.
Q. How long did it take you to decide that you -- with you were going to end your hiatus, and what made you -- if that's not the right word, and what made you choose to end it here?
PHIL MICKELSON: It came down to how I felt when I would think about playing again. And Amy and I were talking one day not too long ago about the possibilities or the options that we had, and I found myself excited to play golf again when I talked about LIV Golf, the team aspect, the different format as well as the opportunity to have a little bit more balance.
I've played a lot of golf over the years, and when I finally stepped away and took a break, I realized that I needed to have a little bit, I guess, better balance; I've said it a few times. I just needed a little bit more balance on and off the golf course, and this provide me a chance to bring golf back into my life but still do the things off the course I've wanted to do, whether it's traveling, spending time with people I care about. I went to my nephews -- a couple of my nephews little league games. I haven't had a chance to do that my whole life. Went to my niece's lacrosse games. I haven't had a chance to do that. It's given me opportunities, like I say, to have a better balance on and off the golf course.
Q. But you realize, the more you emphasize that sort of stuff, the more people will say, have you really done your penance?
PHIL MICKELSON: I understand that people may not agree with my decision to play LIV Golf, my timing. I understand that. I empathize with that. But this is what I think is the right decision for me, Amy, the people I care about at this time.
Q. Sorry about the other guys that so much is focused on Phil. I wanted to ask, if you were a young player now and not selected for LIV, is there a danger that this free agency world would create uncertainty, reduce the value of PGA rights, you wouldn't have earned all you could do, you wouldn't have had the opportunities, and is that a risk that LIV Golf presents to golf more broadly than the chaos of free agency?
PHIL MICKELSON: Who are you re- -- oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't listening. I thought you were talking to the other guys.
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't mean to monopolize, I'm sorry, guys. Would you ask that one more time? I wasn't paying attention.
Q. Particularly on the shake up that LIV Golf is causing, if you were a young player now and you weren't selected for LIV Golf, is there a danger that in whole series would and still can do, reduce the value of PGA rights, because free agency, where you turn up to, which events you would be at --
PHIL MICKELSON: Honestly, you've lost me. There's too much speculation in there. I don't know where to go with that.
Q. Sure, I follow. I just want to ask on the decision. Did you consult any human rights violations groups and beyond Khashoggi, what are the human rights violations in particular you're referring to when you acknowledge those?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think I've addressed that about as thoroughly as I'm going to.
Q. You said in an interview with Bob that you came to realize during your time away that your gambling habits were reckless. What do you see your relationship like with gambling going forward and how would you describe how you plan to handle that aspect of your life?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've been handling it for many years now. You're talking about something that was almost a decade ago, and look, me and my family have been financially secure for I can't remember how long, but it was certainly going to be threatened if I didn't address this, and I did. I've had hundreds of hours therapy and I've worked tirelessly for many years, and I feel really good about where I'm at.
And yeah, I'm proud of the work I've done. So I've addressed the issue, and will continue to do so the rest of my life..
Q. The other day, you did mention that you didn't feel you were in a place to play the Masters and the PGA. But just wondering in reflecting back, obviously the opportunities for you are going to be less, and certainly at Augusta, I'm sure you feel that's a place you can still win even into your 50s. From that standpoint, did it hurt to miss this time, and did it make you reflect on the position that you put yourself in that you weren't there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Every day of the Masters I skied in the morning, and I watched the tournament afterwards. I enjoyed watching it. I thought Scottie Scheffler put on an amazing performance there.
I found myself missing the Masters but not wanting to be there. I had not played. I had not touched a club. I wasn't in a position to be competitive. But I will always love that tournament, and if I'm not there, I'll always miss it, but I didn't have a desire to be there.
Q. As you rightly said, you've earned your lifetime membership to the PGA TOUR. Is part of the desire to keep that membership related to The Ryder Cup at all? Are you still interested in being a captain somewhere down the line?
PHIL MICKELSON: Just like the PGA TOUR, The Ryder Cup has provided so many special memories, relationships, friendships that have been formed those weeks that really have transcended and lasted a career, and I'm hopeful to be a part of The Ryder Cup going forward. But that's not the reason for me to maintain my membership; it's because I've earned it. I believe all players should have the right to play whenever and wherever they want, which is consistent with being an independent contractor.
Q. Just to follow up on that, were you surprised, therefore, to see the likes of Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, etc., have resigned from the PGA TOUR?
PHIL MICKELSON: I saw that. And I think that they are making the decision that they believe is best for them professionally, and I respect that.
As a lifetime member, I'm not required to play 15 events. I don't have to play any; I can play one. And so I don't -- I don't see the reason for me to give that up.
Q. How big a disappointment was it to you to not, for whatever reason behind your decision, to defend your PGA title at Southern Hills?
PHIL MICKELSON: It was made clear to me through extensive conversations that I was able to play if I wanted to. I wasn't ready to play and compete. I hadn't -- I hadn't practiced. I had played a couple rounds but I wasn't sharp. I feel like I was ready. But it was made clear that I had the option to, and I just chose not to.
And just like the Masters, I certainly enjoyed watching it. I missed being there but I didn't have a desire to be there.
Q. You said you didn't want to air problems in public and you mentioned problems with the PGA TOUR. Are you prepared to give any sort of examples of what those problems are, what are the main problems of the TOUR as you see them?
PHIL MICKELSON: That could be counterintuitive to what I just said about not talking about them publicly.
Q. I just wondered if you would give 1- or 2-over arching issues that you think need to be tackles, but you're saying you don't want to go into that at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm learning from my mistakes.
Q. Secondly, are you expecting to be punished by the PGA TOUR for appearing at this tournament?
PHIL MICKELSON: Again, that would be commenting on a PGA TOUR matter. I don't know what's going to happen but I'll deal with that with the TOUR privately.
ARI FLEISCHER: We have time for one or two more questions and just a gentle reminder we have one or two other golfers at the table.
Q. Say you were to play at the U.S. Open next week and actually win it, how do you think that victory would be received compared to your win at the U.S. PGA last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know how others will receive it but I would be quite favorable with it (laughter).
Q. I've actually got a question for everyone else as well but I'm going ask one to Phil. It's been reported that you are getting $200 million to appear in this series. Can you tell us --
PHIL MICKELSON: I can't see who is speaking -- got it.
Q. Can you tell us if that's true or not, and if not, what is the figure?
PHIL MICKELSON: I feel that contract agreements should be private.
PHIL MICKELSON: Doesn't seem to be the case but it should be.
Q. For the rest of the players, one of you mentioned the long history of your team, which was a good joke. How do you feel -- does this team element bring something different to the game? Do you think it will work? Do you think the spectators will find it to be a gimmick?
CHASE KOEPKA: I mean, the team aspect in golf has gone on for quite some time, and to The Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Walker Cup, Solheim Cup, things of that nature, and I think it only brings the best out of those players?
TK CHANTANANUWAT: Yeah, I agree with what chase said just this, what the team aspect alone has done for golf. You have a kid 3 1/2 years and finishing high school on the same team as a man with six majors buoying people on the Champions Tour on the same team in golf. Of course it's amazing.
JUSTIN HARDING: Yeah, I definitely think, look, this is something new, it's innovative, it's exciting. I'm just thrilled to have the opportunity to pick Phil's game. He's obviously a legend of the game and looking forward obviously to what TK has got. I haven't played with him before but from what I've heard it been nothing but fantastic. I'm super excited. I think the week's going to be great.
Q. Just curious, you wouldn't confirm or deny if you were banned or currently serving a ban. Is there a particular reason why you won't confirm that, because presumably if you weren't banned, you would just say so?
PHIL MICKELSON: If I were to confirm or deny or speak at all on that issue, I would be speaking publicly on a PGA TOUR matter, which I don't -- I choose not to do at this time.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
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