After months of speculation, statements and controversy, the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Tour kicked off its first event in London. It took about five hours for another controversy to surface.
The controversy centered on veteran golf reporter Alan Shipnock, whose publication of a quote from LIV golf star Phil Mickelson about Saudi Arabia in February raised an apparently existential threat to the tour when it was still trying to persuade players to opt out of the PGA Tour.
In case you need a reminder, Shipnuck released an excerpt from the book stating that Mickelson called the Saudis a “scary mother,” admitted killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi and admitted that the country had a “horrific human rights record.” The quotes revealed what LIV Golf really was, a A way for golfers to profit from the PGA Tour is by taking money from a brutal regime trying to polish its image through the sport.
Mickelson did not play competitively again after Shipnuck posted the quotes, until he followed through on his stated intentions and spoke in London on Monday. Shipnuck was on hand for Mickelson’s tour and tried to attend his subsequent press conference.
“Try” is the key word in that previous sentence, as Shipnuck tweeted on LIV Golf that security had unceremoniously kicked him out of the Mickelson convention.
The Fire Pit Collective, a media company that Shipnuck co-founded, tweeted a video of the controversy hours later while also claiming that rangers twice got their hands on Shipnuck.
Shipnuck then tweeted a screenshot of a text exchange with LIV Golf Commissioner Greg Norman, asking Hall of Famer if he was aware of what just happened. Norman said he hadn’t heard of it, which Shippock immediately pointed out to be wrong with the image of Norman watching the conflict.
Shipnuck: Are you aware that I just walked out of Phil’s press conference by two goons? Fortunately for you guys, I kept my cool and de-escalated the situation. Please contact me to discuss.
Norman: I haven’t heard. Thanks for informing me.
Shipnuck: This is funny for the following reasons: [Picture of Norman watching Shipnuck speak with security guards]
There still appears to be some hard feelings about Shipnuck’s role in drawing attention to the human rights abuses from which Saudi Arabia is spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to distance itself. You might think the supposed fault lies more with Mickelson, the actual source of the quotes, but, well, LIV Golf needs Mickelson about the heck a lot more than Shipnuck.
The whole affair was only part of the eventful first day of LIV Golf. The PGA Tour responded to its opening day by banning every golfer involved indefinitely, an expected escalation in what could be a battle for control of the sport.
There was also golf, with Charles Schwarzl leading five points after another. Mickelson sits seventh in 1st under.