Rory McIlroy calls for forgiveness for Phil Mickelson and hopes to see golf ‘welcome him back’ to PGA Tour.

Rory McIlroy hopes Phil Mickelson will be welcomed back to golf and has called for the golfing world to forgive the six-time major champion for his comments about the PGA Tour and the proposed Saudi-backed Golf League.

Mickelson is currently taking a break from competitive golf, following the fall-out from his claims that the PGA Tour acts like a “dictatorship” and that he was using the threat of a breakaway Saudi Golf League to “reshape” how the Tour operates.

The six-time major winner apologised for his comments, which resulted in him losing several of his sponsors, but still insisted the way the sport is run needed to change and praised the “visionaries” he had worked with on the rival league.

McIlroy has previously referred to the comments as “egotistical and ignorant”, with Mickelson widely criticised by the golfing community, although he told reporters ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational that he hopes people can “move on” from the situation.

“I think Phil has been a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf and still is a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf,” McIlroy said. “It’s unfortunate that a few comments that he thought he was making in confidence or off the record got out there – but this whole situation is unfortunate.

“Look, Phil will be back. I think the players want to see him back. He’s done such 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 regard. 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.”

McIlroy is among the pre-tournament favourites at Bay Hill, a venue where he won in 2018 and has posted top-10 finishes in each of his past five appearances.

“It’s one of those courses that I don’t feel like I have to do anything special to compete,” McIlroy said. “I can play within myself. You take care of the par-fives here. You play conservatively the rest of the way, especially how the golf course here has been set up the past few years.

“You play for your pars, and then you try to pick off birdies on the par-fives and some of the easier holes. If you just keep doing that day after day, you’re going to find yourself around the top of the leaderboard. It has been been a course that’s fit my eye from the first time I played here, and just one of those courses that I enjoy coming back to and feel like I can contend at.”

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