That was the buzzword as Phil Mickelson faced the world’s media at Brookline ahead of the US Open.
Respect for those who criticised him for signing up for the LIV Golf rebellion. Respect for those PGA Tour stars who chose to stick with the status quo. Respect, too, for the tour itself, and for long-time sponsor Callaway, with whom his relationship remains officially “paused”.
Respect for the families of the 9/11 victims who spoke out against his decision to join the venture backed by Saudi Arabia, homeland of 15 of the 19 terrorists who killed more than 3,000 Americans 21 years ago.
Throughout a 25-minute grilling, Mickelson was visibly uncomfortable in the face of some difficult questions. More than once he bristled at reporters who asked multiple questions, and halted questions over his future playing schedule other than confirming he will appear at the Open and the remaining LIV events.
This was a very different Phil Mickelson to the one we have become accustomed to over the last three decades. Gone was the amiable, forthright, eternally-smiling Lefty, replaced by a ponderous, downcast version, evading questions and clearly ill-at-ease in the situation he found himself in.
Given the backlash he felt over the comments he made regarding the Saudi regime and the LIV Series, it seems unlikely we will see a return to the Mickelson of old.
“I’m going to try to keep any issues that I have going forward behind closed doors because it was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is voicing all of these little things,” he said regarding his previous remarks about how to improve the PGA Tour.
Other “mistakes” featured heavily, too. Mickelson spoke of his desire to rediscover a balance in his life and spend time with his loved ones, as well as continue treatment for his gambling issues.
The former, he insisted he has spent the last four months doing and gave the impression he has no desire to return to his previous life, instead intending to spend more time away from the golf course. The latter he admitted he will need to spend the “rest of my life” addressing, but added he is in a “good place” right now.
Despite it all, and the current PGA Tour suspension he and the other rebels are facing for their part in the breakaway series, Mickelson spoke of hope.
“I’ve worked hard to earn a lifetime membership,” he said.
“I’ve worked hard to give back to the PGA Tour and the game of golf throughout my 30-plus years of professional golf, and I’ve earned that lifetime membership, so I believe that it should be my choice.
“I am very appreciative of the many memories, opportunities, experiences, friendships, relationships PGA Tour has provided, and those will last a lifetime, but I’m hopeful that I’ll have a chance to create more.”
Whether we will indeed see Phil Mickelson back on the PGA Tour remains to be seen. But even we do, the old Lefty seems to be gone for good.