Billy Horschel is the latest PGA Tour player to express dissatisfaction with Phil Mickelson’s recent comments on the Saudi Golf League.
Horschel labeled Mickelson’s contentious statements “idiotic” and “false” in an interview with Golf Channel’s Matt Adams on Adams’ Fairways of Life Podcast, adding that Mickelson’s legacy has undoubtedly been ruined.
A few days previously, an excerpt from Mickelson’s November interview with journalist Alan Shipnuck was made public. Mickelson mentioned in that interview that he was willing to overlook Saudi Arabia’s bad human-rights record in order to get a competitive advantage on the PGA Tour. After Mickelson attacked the Tour of “obnoxious greed” and claimed the Tour was withholding $20 billion in digital assets from the players, those thoughts became public.
“To tell you the truth, they were a little bit idiotic,” Horschel remarked. “I believe some of his assertions are frauds, falsehoods, and I’m not sure where he got his information. It’s unbelievable that he would say things like that because I believe he understands how the PGA Tour operates; he’s definitely had more experience, time, and communication with Tim Finchem and Jay Monahan over the years. And so, because I’m in the PAC meetings, he can say stuff about outrageous greed and the PGA Tour sitting on $20-30 billion and other things that are utter bullshit. I may not see all of the figures that a player director sees in board meetings, but I see enough to know that the money is being used properly and according to the PGA Tour’s guidelines. It’s difficult because this person – I say this guy – Phil has done so well and has been such a fantastic ambassador for the game of golf, and I honestly believe he’s destroying his legacy and damaging his reputation.”
“They’re scary motherf—-ers to get involved with,” Mickelson said in Shipnuck’s story. We know they assassinated [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a dismal human rights record. People are executed for being gay in that country. Why would I ever consider it knowing all of this? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change the way the PGA Tour works. Because we, the players, had no recourse, they were able to get away with manipulative, coercive, and strong-arm techniques. Even if [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] appears to be a good guy, unless you have leverage, he will not do what is right. And it is thanks to Saudi money that we now have that leverage. I’m not sure I want [the SGL] to thrive, but the fact that it exists allows us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.” This did not sit well with a few of Riviera’s top players.
Justin Thomas commented, “Seems like a bit of a fairly, you know, egocentric statement.”
Rory McIlroy added: “Obviously, I don’t want to kick someone who is already down, but I thought they were naive, selfish, egotistical, and uneducated. It was both unexpected and disappointing. Sad. I’m sure he’s at home, considering his situation and where he wants to go next.”
Horschel believes Mickelson’s latest incident could jeopardize his chances of leading the United States at the Ryder Cup. While Horschel has never played in a Ryder Cup and is not privy to leadership discussions, many expected Mickelson, who served as an assistant captain at last year’s matches at Whistling Straits, to be named the 2025 Ryder Cup captain.
“It’ll be fascinating,” Horschel said. “Obviously, the PGA of America and the former captains will make that decision. … I’d say right now, if that decision had to be made, if the Ryder Cup was next year for Bethpage and we all felt he’d get it and that decision had to be made, I’d be surprised if he got it. I imagine they’d say something along the lines of, “Hey, we just can’t go down that road.” But, you know, we’re three or four years away from that deadline, and things can be fixed, and people can recognize their mistakes and go forward in the appropriate way. At the same time, how serious is Phil’s desire to be captain? That’s a legitimate concern…. If he truly wants to be a Ryder Cup captain, perhaps there’s a way for him to make amends for whatever that has caused him to be in that position.”
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