Gary Player has backed struggling golfer Phil Mickelson in light of the American’s connections to a breakaway Saudi tour.
Mickelson, a six-time major champion, is taking a break from golf after being heavily criticized for his role in leading a group of players to join a Super Golf League earlier this year.
Player – who won nine majors between 1961 and 1978 – believes, however, that Mickelson has paid the price for his error and should be allowed to continue his career.
He said: ‘I think we live in a time now where we are such a judgmental society, a judicial society, a critical society where people are being crucified.
‘The biggest PR man on the golf tour in the last five or X years has been Phil Mickelson. He has been the ideal man for a sponsor, for professional golf, for the public, the way he has handled the public, with dignity and with love.
“And he makes a mistake that every one of you in this room has made a damn mistake. We all have. And he said he’s sorry. But even the Lord God will forgive you your iniquities if you pray. about forgiveness.
‘I called him. I said, ‘Keep your head high.’ You made a mistake. Everyone makes a mistake. And he should go on with his life. It is fantastic. From the epitome of perfection, he is being crucified down there. That is not correct. That is my opinion. He said terrible things, but we all make mistakes. ‘
Since winning the PGA Championship last year, Mickelson’s popularity has fallen like a rock, and many sponsors have cut the ribbon for the American after a phone conversation he took with golf writer Alan Shipnuck.
In an excerpt that will be published in a new book next month, Mickelson describes the Saudis as ‘scary mothers’ to get involved in and suggested that his support for the breakaway league was to force the PGA Tour’s hand to give more money for players.
Last month, after the revelations, he issued an apology via his management team, wanting to put the matter behind him.
He said: “Although it does not look like that now given my recent comments, my actions throughout this process have always benefited golf, my peers, sponsors and fans.”
“There is the problem that comments that are not recorded are shared out of context and without my consent, but the bigger problem is that I used words I sincerely regret that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions.
‘It was ruthless, I insulted people and I am deeply sorry for my word choice. I’m more than disappointed and will do anything to reflect on this. ‘
For the first time since 1994, Mickelson is not playing at this year’s Masters as he seeks time away from the limelight.
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