Sport Golf Sponsors abandon golfer Phil Mickelson after his criticism of Saudi human rights abuses
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Sponsors abandon golfer Phil Mickelson after his criticism of Saudi human rights abuses

Phil Mickelson is a champ on the fairways, but a dunce in the PR arena.Photo: Getty Photo: Getty
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Golfer Phil Mickelson’s candid comments about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, which is backing the new league he is promoting, have drawn a swift backlash from the PGA and long-time sponsors.

Mickelson and his foundation were scratched from the PGA Tour event in the California desert as the fallout from his shocking remarks continued.

In an astonishingly unguarded interview, Mickelson said that despite believing Saudi Arabia was guilty of human rights abuses, he saw the Saudi-backed breakaway league as a lever to change the PGA Tour.

The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, California, reported American Express will no longer have the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation as its main charitable arm, and that Mickelson no longer will be the tournament host.

The PGA Tour said it would have no further comment except to confirm Mickelson is no longer involved. Saudi Arabia’s government denies accusations of human rights abuses.

Rebel league boycotted

Mickelson’s comments drew immediate backlash from golfers, including superstars Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

The rival league suffered a big blow last week when none of the top 12 players in the world indicated an interest in joining for guaranteed riches.

The 51-year-old Mickelson later offered an awkward statement in which he conceded his comments were “reckless” and not meant to be shared.

He added he “desperately needs” time away to get his priorities in order.

KPMG was the first organisation to announce it was immediately ending its corporate sponsorship with the six-time major champion while Amstel Light also said it was ending its partnership with Mickelson.

Callaway Golf, which Mickelson has represented since the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills, said it was pausing its relationship.

The company told Golf Digest it was “very disappointed in his choice of words — they in no way reflect Callaway’s values or what we stand for as a company”.

Workday, which has sponsored Mickelson since 2017, told Golf Digest it would not be renewing the contract when it expires at the end of March.

-with AAP