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Billy Horschel: Phil Mickelson has likely tarnished legacy with Saudi comments

Add Billy Horschel to the list of PGA Tour players not happy with Phil Mickelson’s recently revealed comments about the Saudi Golf League.

Speaking with Golf Channel’s Matt Adams on Adams’ Fairways of Life Podcast, Horschel called Mickelson’s controversial comments both “idiotic” and “false” while noting that Mickelson’s legacy has likely been tarnished.

A few days prior, an excerpt from a November interview that Mickelson did with writer Alan Shipnuck was released. In that interview, Mickelson talked about overlooking the Saudis’ poor human-rights record in order to gain leverage on the PGA Tour. Those thoughts were made public after Mickelson accused the Tour of “obnoxious greed” and said the Tour was withholding $20 billion in digital assets from the players.

“They were a little bit idiotic to tell you the truth,” Horschel said. “I think some of the statements he made are lies, are false, are – I don’t know where he got his information from. It’s unbelievable that he would say certain things because I think he does understand how the PGA Tour works; he’s had obviously more experience and more time and more communications with Tim Finchem and Jay Monahan over the years. And so, for him to say certain things about obnoxious greed and the PGA Tour sitting on $20-30 billion and some of these other things which are complete lies because I’m in the PAC meetings. I may not see all the numbers that a player director may see in board meetings, but I see enough to understand that the money is being used correctly and it’s being used how the PGA Tour says it is. It’s tough because this guy – I say this guy – Phil has done so great, and he’s been a great ambassador to the game of golf, and I honestly feel that he’s hurting his reputation and he’s tarnishing his legacy a little bit.”

Mickelson’s quote in Shipnuck’s article – “They’re scary motherf---ers to get involved with. We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.” – did not sit well with several top players at Riviera.

“Seems like a bit of a pretty, you know, egotistical statement,” said Justin Thomas.

Added Rory McIlroy: “I don’t want to kick someone while he’s down, obviously, but I thought they were naïve, selfish, egotistical, ignorant. It was just very surprising and disappointing. Sad. I’m sure he’s sitting at home sort of rethinking his position and where he goes from here.”

Horschel believes that Mickelson’s latest controversy could affect his prospects of being a U.S. Ryder Cup captain. While Horschel has never played a Ryder Cup and is not privy to captaincy meetings, he, and many others, had expected Mickelson, an assistant captain at last year’s matches at Whistling Straits, to get the nod for the 2025 Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Horschel said. “Obviously, that’s a decision with the PGA of America and the former captains. … I would say at this point right now, if that decision had to be made, if the Ryder Cup was next year for Bethpage, and we all thought he was going to get it and that decision was going to be made, it would be hard-pressed for me to see him actually getting that spot. I would think they would sort of say, hey, we just can’t go down that route. But, you know, we’re three or four years away from that timeline, and things can be corrected, and people can admit wrong and do things the right way going forward. At the same time, how much does Phil actually want to be captain? That’s an honest question. … If that’s what he really wants to be is a Ryder Cup captain, maybe there’s some way for him to sort of fix anything that has hurt him from possibly being in that spot.”