R&A nudges led to absences from Open anniversary events, Mickelson says

Phil Mickelson has revealed that the discussion about his non-attendance to this week’s events for previous champions leading up to the Open Championship was initiated by the R&A.

Mickelson was a notable absence from a four-hole challenge to form Open winners on Monday and a dinner the following evening. The R&A initially revealed that Mickelson had issued an apology, but the 52-year-old, who has been embroiled in controversy over his ties to the Saudi-backed LIV series, painted a different picture in St .Andrews.

“The R&A contacted me a few weeks earlier and said, ‘Look, we don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go, but you can do it if you want,'” Mickelson said. “I just didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so I said, ‘Fine.’ We both agreed it would be best if I didn’t.”

Greg Norman, who runs the LIV operation, was not invited to the challenge or to the dinner. Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods received honorary membership of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club at the latter.

When asked if he was sad not to be able to attend the celebrations for the 150th edition of the Open, Mickelson’s words belied his expression. “No, not at all,” said the 2013 champion. “I couldn’t be more excited and ecstatic about where I am.

“I love the [LIV] events. I have golf in my life and competitive golf to an extent that is fun, exciting and different and lets me play and compete but still do the things outside of me that I want to do. After that I have a nice journey ahead of me and things I couldn’t do in the past. So, no, I couldn’t be happy.”

Mickelson floundered when asked by the Guardian how looking inside from the outside could make sense. “Never mind, dude,” he said. “Let it go. That’s three times you’ve asked the same question. I don’t know what to tell you. I couldn’t be happy.”

To Mickelson’s credit, he stayed in front of the media for far longer than first seemed possible. Woods had torn up the LIV concept before beginning his quest for a 16th Major title. “I definitely respect his opinion,” Mickelson said. “I have great respect for him. I respect his opinion. I think everyone will have strong emotions and opinions on this and I certainly respect theirs.”

Not that Mickelson regrets anything, at least outwardly. He is banned from the PGA Tour and apart from the majors, will from now on play 54-hole events without a cut. Mickelson has lost sponsors and seen his once pristine reputation ruined by the LIV saga.

“I made the right decision for me,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to play competitive golf and have it in a more moderate setting in my life where I can also do some things outside of it. I also gained a lot of time.

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    “I couldn’t be happy. I think it was really good. I can’t wait to get to New Jersey and play another event there. The player experience, the experience of these events from the player’s point of view is a 10. It doesn’t get any better than that.

    “It will all happen in time. I think it will all unfold and end up where it should be in time.”

    Ian Poulter, another LIV rebel, claimed he didn’t notice the booing from the open crowd that could be heard on the 1st tee. Poulter made a three under par 69. “All I heard was clapping,” said Poulter.

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