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Rory McIlroy Calls Phil Mickelson Saga 'Unfortunate,' Adds That 'Phil Will Be Back'

McIlroy has been critical of Mickelson's published comments about his dealings with a rival golf league, but took a different tone on Wednesday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Phil Mickelson has taken quite the beating of late, losing several sponsors and enduring the wrath of many of his peers on the PGA Tour after critical comments surrounding his dealings with a rival tour.

Rory McIlroy was among the players who took Mickelson to task two weeks ago at the Genesis Invitational, but on Wednesday the four-time major champion took a broader view of the situation.

“It is unfortunate,’’ McIlroy said at the Bay Hill Club, where he will compete in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “I think Phil has been a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf, still is a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf. It’s unfortunate that a few comments that he thought he was making in confident or off the record got out there and ... were not used against him, but this whole situation is unfortunate.’’

In different interviews, Mickelson was highly critical of the PGA Tour, referring to its “obnoxious greed’’ in withholding certain things from players. He also questioned why golfers do not have access to their own media rights. In another interview that was excerpted as part of a biography, Mickelson admitted that he was using the potential rival league being fronted by Greg Norman through LIV Golf Investments as leverage against the Tour.

As part of the interview, it was reported that Mickelson helped LIV Golf with its business plan. He also was highly critical of the Saudi government for its human rights issues. The Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, is behind the initiative.

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Mickelson issued an apology last week but did not name the PGA Tour or commissioner Jay Monahan. He said he would be taking some time off. In the aftermath, sponsors KPMG, Workday and Amstel Light said they would be dropping or not renewing Mickelson; Callaway puts its contract with the golfer – which dates to 2004 – on hold.

“Look, Phil will be back,’’ McIroy said. “I think the players want to see him back. He’s done a wonderful job for the game of golf, and he’s represented the game of golf very, very well for the entirety of his career. We all make mistakes. We all say things we want to take back. No one is different in that.

“But we should be allowed to make mistakes, and we should be allowed to ask for forgiveness and for people to forgive us and move on. Hopefully, he comes back at some stage and he will, and people will welcome him back and be glad that he is back.’’

After the final round of the Genesis, McIlroy was asked about the controversy surrounding Mickelson and did not hold back.

“I don't want to kick someone while he's down obviously, but I thought they were naive, selfish, egotistical, ignorant,’’ McIlory said of Mickelson’s comments. “A lot of words to describe that interaction he had with (writer Alan) Shipnuck. 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.’’

More Phil Mickelson Coverage:

- Roundtable: Writers Discuss Off-Record Interviews, Phil's Next Move
- Timeline: Phil Mickelson and the Saudi Golf League, From Beginning to Today
- Callaway to 'Pause' Longtime Relationship with Mickelson
- Video: It's Time for Phil to Hit the Mute Button
- Mickelson Saga is Latest Example of Phil's Ego, Recklessness
- Mickelson Says Interview was Off Record, Apologizes for Word Choice
- Koepka Says Everyone on Tour is Happy -- Except Phil
- Monahan Says PGA Tour Focused on Legacy, Not Leverage