Saudi rebel tour apologises after ejecting journalist as Greg Norman watched on

Saudi rebel tour apologises after ejecting journalist as Greg Norman watched on - @AlanShipnuck
Saudi rebel tour apologises after ejecting journalist as Greg Norman watched on - @AlanShipnuck

Alan Shipnuck, the US journalist who wrote Phil Mickelson’s revelatory biography, has received an apology from the Saudi rebel circuit after being “muscled out” of the six-time major winner’s press conference here at the Centurion Club - while Greg Norman watched on behind him.

Norman, the chief executive of the LIV Golf Series whose $25million opener is under way in Hemel Hempstead, told Shipnuck by text that he had “not heard” of his removal from the media centre after the conclusion of first-round play.

However, a video on social media showed Norman in the background seemingly looking on intently as Shipnuck was ejected by three security guards. “You cannot make up this s---,” Shipnuck said.

In Shipnuck’s recently published book, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” Mickelson called the Saudis “scary motherf-----s to deal with”, but concluded that he could overcome his objection to the Kingdom’s “horrible human rights record” in order to gain leverage over the PGA Tour in his media rights dispute.

Shipnuck also exposed Mickelson’s gambling habits, which saw him lose more than $40million over a four-year period.

On arrival here on Thursday, Shipnuck was informed by the LIV media staff that Mickelson, making his first competitive appearance in four months and since his controversial comments were made public, did not want any questions from Shipnuck.

Shipnuck did not agree to the request but was standing quietly at the back of Mickelson’s session with the media, when the security guards demanded that they recheck his credentials. With Shipnuck telling the guards “don’t touch me” the bizarre scene became ugly.

Telegraph Sport was positioned nearby and tried to video the scene, but was told by an official to stop and was also grabbed by Mickelson’s coach, Andrew Getsen. As it was, I could not operate my mobile phone. Shipnuck was escorted out and the row continued. It was only after Mickelson had left the media area that Shipnuck was allowed back in.

Shipnuck tweeted:

Later he texted Norman, but the Australian claimed he was unaware. Then the incriminating image emerged which suggested Norman did have knowledge in Shipnuck’s eviction, and raised questions over any role he played in seeing it take place. Two months ago, Norman claimed to Telegraph Sport that Shipnuck worked in unison with the PGA Tour to release Mickelson’s “scary” statement at a time when it would cause maximum damage to a planned LIV Golf launch that was forced to be put on hold in the resulting furore.

“We had our strength of field ready to go and the PGA Tour heard about this and threw a giant redwood tree in our roadway,” Norman said. “And they did, there's no question about it.

“They created a disruption by putting that information out, all those comments about Phil out there… That wouldn't be a coincidence - it was calculated. It's not like my 45 years in the game has left me on the outside.  I have some pretty good Intel that, you know, it was calculated in how it came out.”

At the time, Shipnuck dismissed the claim as “crazy”. The suspicion and bitterness appears to remain.

“I’ve had some recent issues with Norman,” Shipnuck told firepitcollective.com on Tuesday night. “I have no ill will toward Phil. I just wanted to ask him one boring golf question, which is my job. Either he is being way too sensitive or the LIV folks are being too overprotective but, either way, they are overreacting.

“The security guards were inappropriately aggressive and physical, considering I was just standing there trying to make sense of the bizarre reasons they were citing for wanting to remove me.”

A media official was seen saying sorry to Shipnuck following the unseemly melee. The incident came two days after an AP reporter was removed from the media centre and reprimanded for not being “polite.” That reporter also was allowed to return a little while later.