Callaway Golf puts Phil Mickelson on 'pause'

Equipment manufacturer 'does not condone' six-time major champion's controversial comments; PGA Tour drops Mickelson as The American Express host

Phil Mickelson — Saudi International 2022
Phil Mickelson tees off during the second round of the 2022 Saudi International.

Callaway Golf, which has endorsed Phil Mickelson since 2004, has decided to "pause" its relationship with the six-time major champion.

First reported by Golf Channel, the equipment manufacturer released a statement distancing itself from Mickelson's comments that this month called out the PGA Tour's "obnoxious greed" and called the Saudis "scary mother-------." in an interview with Alan Shipnuck that was published on the Fire Pit Collective website.

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“Callaway does not condone Phil Mickelson’s comments and we were very disappointed in his choice of words — they in no way reflect our values or what we stand for as a company,” the company said in a statement published on GolfChannel.com. “Phil has since apologized and we know he regrets how he handled recent events. We recognize his desire to take some time away from the game and respect that decision. At this time, we have agreed to pause our partnership and will re-evaluate our ongoing relationship at a later date.”

On Saturday, the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported that the PGA Tour has removed Mickelson as host of The American Express tournament going forward. Also, the Mickelson Foundation, which served as the tournament's charitable arm, will not be associated with the tournament. Mickelson was not in attendance at this year's event held in late January.

On Tuesday, after Mickelson apologized via a written statement, both KPMG and Heineken N.V., whose Amstel Light brand was associated with Mickelson, ended their respective relationships with the 51-year-old Hall of Famer. A fourth sponsor, Workday, is expected to end its endorsement agreement with Mickelson at the end of March.

In 2017, Mickelson, who had played Callaway equipment since 2004, signed a lifetime endorsement agreement with the club maker.

Playing in the Saudi International in early February, Mickelson, in an interview with Golf Digest, took the PGA Tour to task for how the Tour handled media rights.

“It’s not public knowledge, all that goes on,” Mickelson said. “But the players don’t have access to their own media. If the tour wanted to end any threat [from Saudi or anywhere else], they could just hand back the media rights to the players. But they would rather throw $25 million here and $40 million there than give back the roughly $20 billion in digital assets they control. Or give up access to the $50-plus million they make every year on their own media channel.

“There are many issues, but that is one of the biggest,” he continued. “For me personally, it’s not enough that they are sitting on hundreds of millions of digital moments. They also have access to my shots, access I do not have. They also charge companies to use shots I have hit. And when I did ‘The Match’ — there have been five of them—the tour forced me to pay them $1 million each time. For my own media rights. That type of greed is, to me, beyond obnoxious."

Nearly two weeks later an interview that Shipnuck conducted with Mickelson in November came to light. Shipnuck is writing an unauthorized biography about the left-hander and in the widely publicized interview that Mickelson later claimed he thought was off the record, he said in part:

“They’re scary mother------ to get involved with. We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the proposed Saudi-backed league] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour."

In the statement earlier this week where Mickelson apologized for his earlier words, he said: "I have incredible partners, and these relationships mean so much more to me than a contract. The last thing I would ever want to do is compromise them or their business in any way, and I have given all of them the option to pause or end the relationship as I understand it might be necessary given the current circumstances."

Three days later Callaway took Mickelson up on the option to pause.