Mickelson does 'not condone human rights violations' but insists LIV Golf good for sport

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Phil Mickelson said he does "not condone human rights violations" but signed up to participate in the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series because he thinks it can do good for the sport.

Mickelson is arguably the most-notable name involved ahead of the first event of a series previously known as the 'Super Golf League', which gets under way at the Centurion Club, near London, on Thursday.

A lucrative breakaway from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, its bankrolling by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) has attracted some big names.

Each regular-season event will have a purse of €25million, which is already $5m greater than the most-lucrative event on the PGA Tour, the Players Championship.

LIV Golf's season-ending championship event will have $50m up for grabs, making it comfortably the biggest purse in the sport.

But funding of the series by Saudi Arabia's PIF has led to significant criticism due to the country's poor humans rights record, with critics labelling LIV Golf another example of "sportswashing" – the practice of improving a tarnished reputation through the hosting or funding sporting events or entities.

Mickelson found himself at the centre of the controversy last year when admitting to being aware of Saudi Arabia's grim record but signed up to LIV Golf anyway because "this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates".

On the eve of the first tournament, Mickelson received a grilling from the media, and he told reporters: "I don't condone human rights violations, I don't know how I can be any more clear.

"I understand your question but again I love this game of golf, I've seen the good it's done and I see the opportunity for LIV Golf to do a lot of good for the game over the world and I'm excited to be a part of this opportunity."

During his news conference, Mickelson again offered his regret at some public comments made in the past.

But he was then asked if he was sorry for "speaking the truth about the Saudis" or for the "shameless hypocrisy of taking their money anyway".

He replied: "I understand many people have very strong opinions and may disagree with my decision, and I can empathise with that."

Following a significant pause, he continued: "But at this time this is an opportunity that gives me the chance to have the most balance in my life going forward and I think this is going do a lot of good for the game."

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