It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.”
Old Ben wasn’t much of a golfer since the game hadn’t really taken hold while he was busy helping build this country but his words have been applied to many and are as true as a sunrise.
Phil Mickelson is living that reality these days.
He’s damaged goods and he’s the one who damaged those goods.
In a long mea culpa posted on social media Tuesday afternoon, Mickelson took ownership of his actions, admitted he’s been reckless with his words and deeds and says he needs a long break to cope with the accumulation of stress that has developed over the last decade.
Mickelson’s image, once new-car shiny, is smudged. His angry words about both the PGA Tour and the proposed new Saudi-backed golf league were disillusioning to fans and bridge burning on both ends.
“I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.” – Phil Mickelson
He has, as they say in team sports, lost the locker room and at least one high-profile sponsor in KPMG. He took a necessary first step in his statement Tuesday though he continued to defend his intentions to use the Greg Norman-led new league to force the PGA Tour to do more for players or to capitalize directly from the new venture.
Words are one thing.
Actions are another.
“For the past 31 years I have lived a very public life and I have strived to live up to my own expectations, be the role model the fans deserve, and be someone that inspires others,” Mickelson said in the statement.
“I’ve worked to compete at the highest level, be available to media, represent my sponsors with integrity, engage with volunteers and sign every autograph for my incredible fans. I have experienced many successful and rewarding moments that I will always cherish, but I have often failed myself and others too. The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level.
“I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.”
How much time away Mickelson will take is uncertain. It also raises the question of whether he has been suspended by the PGA Tour for his comments that surfaced last week. The tour does not comment on suspensions (other than violations to the drug policy).
Through a career that includes 45 PGA Tour wins including six major championships, Mickelson has endured his share of controversy. He called out captain Tom Watson after the 2014 Ryder Cup, chased down and hit his moving golf ball in the 2018 U.S. Open and was linked to an insider trading scandal involving Dean Foods, among other things.
Mickelson has never shied away from his image as a free-wheeling gambler and he has been followed by rumors about how much money he has won and lost. Two upcoming books – one by writer Alan Shipnuck who posted Mickelson’s self-sabotaging comments and another by gambler Billy Walters – may not reflect favorably on Mickelson’s image.
With his blistering comments about the Saudi Arabian government, which funds the proposed new league that would be operated by LIV Golf Investments, Mickelson undercut his opportunity to become the face of the new league, which was said to be promising him tens of millions of dollars to join.
Instead, Mickelson’s comments seemed to ignite an avalanche of criticism from his peers and, whether directly or indirectly, were followed by recommitments to the PGA Tour from Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, despite being romanced by the new group.
Mickelson has been frustrated by the PGA Tour’s control over its players’ media rights and has pushed for more access to his own images. As the Saudi-backed idea gained traction, Mickelson was interested enough that he said he helped pay for lawyers to help structure the new venture.
In his statement, he reiterated his goal is to make professional golf better, while acknowledging how badly he mishandled delivering the message.
“Golf desperately needs change, and real change is always preceded by disruption. I have always known that criticism would come with exploring anything new. I still chose to put myself at the forefront of this to inspire change, taking the hits publicly to do the work behind the scenes,” Mickelson said.
“My experience with LIV Golf Investments has been very positive. I apologize for anything I said that was taken out of context. The specific people I have worked with are visionaries and have only been supportive. More importantly they passionately love golf and share my drive to make the game better. They have a clear plan to create an updated and positive experience for everyone including players, sponsors, networks, and fans.”
Mickelson, it appears, understands the damage he has done to himself and to others.
Now he faces the challenge of building back what has been lost. It’s tougher than the tearing down.
© 2022 Global Golf Post LLC
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