How Rory McIlroy Acknowledged Phil Mickelson Rift With 9/11 Group

Mickelson came under fire after joining the Saudi Arabian-backed golf league


Jun 14, 2022

BROOKLINE — The decision by Phil Mickelson and others to join the LIV Invitational Golf Series has engulfed those on the PGA Tour for months, but their official announcements and a recent development have advanced the storyline one step further.

Mickelson, who officially announced he would be leaving the PGA Tour and joining LIV last week, has since been on the receiving end of a scathing letter from a 9/11 group, known as 9/11 Families United. The letter, as written by Terry Strada, whose husband died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, accused Mickelson and others of betraying the United States given that LIV is backed by Saudi Arabian investments.

Mickelson addressed those sentiments Monday, but it was not satisfactory to Strada and the rest of her group members, who issued a response saying Mickelson should be “ashamed.”

Golfers joining Mickelson at the 2022 U.S. Open here now are left to answer questions regarding the rift. Rory McIlroy did just that Tuesday, acknowledging how he understands where those families are coming from.

“Yeah, of course I do,” McIlroy said ahead of the four-day major championship at The Country Club. “I think everything that’s happening with this tour, it legitimatizes their place in the world, and I’m not saying — I’m sure not every Saudi Arabian is a bad person. We’re talking about this in such a generalized way. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and the vast majority of people that I’ve met there are very, very nice people, but there’s bad people everywhere. The bad people that came from that part of the world did some absolutely horrendous things.

“Of course, I understand where these families are coming from, and in this day and age everything is just so intertwined, and it’s hard to separate sport from politics from dirty money from clean money. It’s a very convoluted world right now,” McIlroy continued.

“I certainly empathize with those families, and I can’t imagine — I have friends that have lost people in 9/11, and it’s a really tragic thing. I empathize with those families, and I certainly understand their concerns and frustrations with it all.”

The letter from of Strada was sent to the representatives of Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Kevin Na, all of whom recently joined the Saudi Arabian-backed golf league.

The letter from Strada accused Mickelson and others of “sportswashing,” but McIlroy, while stern in his comments and expressing disappointment, did not go that far.

“I’m not sure if they’re totally — I don’t think they’re complicit in it. In a way I think — look, they all have the choice to play where they want to play, and they’ve made their decision,” McIlroy said. “My dad said to me a long time ago, once you make your bed, you lie in it, and they’ve made their bed. That’s their decision, and they have to live with that.”

The LIV golf series has widely been viewed as a money grab by the professionals who opted to leave the PGA Tour and sign with the Tour’s now direct competitor. Mickelson reportedly signed with LIV and became $200 million richer. Tiger Woods turned down an offer in the high nine digits, according to LIV commissioner and spokesman Greg Norman.

Mickelson, Johnson and DeChambeau, all of whom joined LIV, are among the golfers taking part in the 122nd U.S. Open. The first round is set for Thursday and you can follow along throughout the week with NESN’s coverage from The Country Club here.

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Thumbnail photo via Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports Images
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