TALK about beating a hasty retreat. With all the finesse of a man reversing his car into the entire peloton of the Tour de France, Phil Mickelson has backed away from golf amid great hubris and humiliation.

Unless you’ve been cocooned in a bathysphere for the last few days, you’ll have no doubt noticed that Mickelson was responsible for a series of comments about the proposed Saudi Super League that had the same explosive impact as a major malfunction at a munitions factory.

To briefly recap, Mickelson described the Saudis he was plotting with to disrupt golf’s status quo as “scary mother****ers” and brazenly stated that he was happy to turn a blind eye to the Kingdom’s grotesque human rights record if it meant it would give him more power to push for change in the “dictatorship” of the PGA Tour. It was hard to avoid the mercenary motives of an extremely rich man seeking to squeeze more millions out of whatever golden goose he could manipulate.

His incendiary quotes were part of an interview he gave to the golf writer, Alan Shipnuck. Yet in a subsequent and grovelling apology in which he appeared to anoint himself as some kind of martyr for the betterment of golf, Mickelson turned to that tried, trusted yet ultimately limp excuse that his words were “off the record” and “taken out of context”. What context we’re supposed to take the scary mother whatdoyoucallthems in is anybody’s guess?

The writer in question, meanwhile, launched a swift counter-offensive as affairs began to unravel. “Not once in our texts or when we got on the phone did Mickelson request to go off-the-record and I never consented to it,” wrote Shipnuck, on the Fire Pit Collective website. “Mickelson simply called me up and opened a vein. To claim now that the comments were off-the-record is false and duplicitous.”

If the backlash from his original comments was fierce – he was branded “selfish, egotistical and ignorant” by Rory McIlroy – the release of his apology did little to douse the flames. One of Mickelson’s longest-standing sponsors, KPMG, swiftly announced a mutual termination of the relationship. It’s a plummet from grace that would make Icarus wince.

Like some meandering mea culpa you’d hear from someone caught at a clandestine Downing Street cheese and wine shindig, Mickelson’s display of contrition was from the mouth – or at least the keyboards of his damage limitation PR task force – of a man who had been rumbled.

The apology didn’t actually feature an apology to the PGA Tour, the circuit he has made upwards of £70m from playing earnings alone. Instead, there was far more remorse reserved for LIV Golf Investments, the company fronted by Greg Norman, backed by the Saudi public investment fund and tasked with steamrolling and bankrolling this new, divisive golfing dawn.

“My experience with LIV Golf Investments has been very positive," Mickelson wrote. "I apologise for anything I said that was taken out of context. The specific people I have worked with are visionaries and have only been supportive. More importantly they love golf and share my drive to make the game better.”

From scary mother 'bleeps’ to visionaries was quite the leap. Mickelson has not played, funnily enough, since the Saudi International at the start of February. During that event, he lambasted the PGA Tour for “obnoxious greed” while simultaneously shoving a vast appearance fee from the Saudis into his suitcase. Goodness knows where or when he will appear next.

The 51-year-old, who became the oldest winner of a major at last season’s US PGA Championship, announced that he will be taking time away from the game to “prioritise the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be”. He also confessed that the pressures, stresses and burdens of a sporting life in the spotlight is now “slowly affecting me at a deeper level.”

Nobody will take pleasure in his admission of these deeper issues, whatever they may be. Sympathy is hardly rampant, though, for man who, not so long ago, seemed to be at the vanguard of an imminent, 20-strong splinter group but now stands alone as other potential defectors swiftly deserted him.

You could argue that all those big names who signed NDAs and have been silently complicit in this failed insurrection of the PGA Tour can hardly walk away with heads held high. Mickelson, as he was quick to tell us in his self-serving communication, was happy to take “the hits publicly to do the work behind the scenes.”

The hits he has taken in the last few days have been considerable. As golf’s upper echelon closes ranks, one of the game’s great showmen is left counting the cost of his wildest act yet.