For most of his professional career, Phil Mickelson was the guy on the PGA Tour who provided the personality. His personality, charisma and down-to-earth sense of humor painted him as one of golf‘s most relatable figures.
Mickelson now finds himself in the kind of rough that not even the game’s greatest short-game player can master. He’s teamed up with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf, participating in the London Invitational, the league’s inaugural event. Now, the six-time major championship winner is back on American soil preparing for the 2022 U.S. Open in Boston. It’s a little bit different this time.
“My preference is to be able to choose which path I would like, one or the other or both,” Mickelson said during his press conference on Monday. “I’ve worked hard to earn a lifetime membership. 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 it should be my choice.”
Once a magnet to the cameras, Mickelson looked uncomfortable throughout his 25-minute press conference on Monday as he was pelted with questions about his legacy, fan support and relationship with other PGA Tour members. It was a far cry from the happy-go-lucky who won the PGA Championship just one year ago.
That’s probably not a great sign heading into the 122nd U.S. Open Championship, the only major that has eluded Mickelson throughout his incredible career.
PGA Tour’s Commissioner Defends Suspensions
A week before the start of the U.S. Open Championship, Jay Monahan delivered on his promise. He issued suspensions for PGA Tour members associated with LIV Golf. It was a list that included big names like Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Mickelson and others.
Speaking with CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz during the RBC Canadian Open, Monahan explained why he pulled the trigger on the suspensions.
“It’s been an unfortunate week that was created by some unfortunate decisions. Those decisions being players choosing to violate our tournament regulations,” Monahan said. “It’s my job to protect, defend, and celebrate our loyal PGA Tour members, our partners and our fans. And that’s exactly what I did. And I don’t think it was a surprise to anybody. Given how clear I had been about how we were going to handle this situation.”
The suspensions will not extend to this year’s U.S. Open, as a statement was released on behalf of the USGA.
“We pride ourselves in being the most open championship in the world and the players who have earned the right to compete in this year’s championship, both via exemption and qualifying, will have the opportunity to do so,” the statement read. “Our field criteria were set prior to entries opening earlier this year and it’s not appropriate, nor fair to competitors, to change criteria once established.”
U.S. Open is Mickelson’s “Great White Whale”
Phil Mickelson has enjoyed a hall-of-fame career on the golf course in his 30-plus years on tour. He’s won 45 PGA Tour events and has claimed six major championships, including three Masters victories. The U.S. Open is the only one the 51-year-old is still chasing.
Six times in his career, Mickelson has earned second place in the U.S. Open, with the most recent runner-up finish coming in 2013 (Merion Golf Club). In 2021, Mickelson ended tied in 62nd place, shooting 11-over-par for the tournament.
“I’m excited about being here in Boston at The Country Club,” Mickelson said Monday. “It’s one of the five founding members of the USGA, it’s got incredible, rich history … It has provided me one of the most memorable moments of my career, the 1999 Ryder Cup. I’m excited to be back and participate in this incredible championship that has eluded me for my whole career.”
In the past, Phil Mickelson has had the fan support to help push through the difficult conditions every U.S. Open Championship presents. With his new path through LIV Golf, that may not be the case in Boston when he tees it up with Shane Lowry and Louis Oosthuizen on Thursday morning.