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Phil Mickelson, Fresh From LIV Golf Series, Stays on Message at U.S. Open

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BROOKLINE, Mass. — He was unwavering. He has made peace along with his decision. For somebody with a status as a gambler, on and off the golf course, Phil Mickelson played it as straight as a Ben Hogan 1-iron on Monday.

Chatting with an overflow crowd of reporters on the Country Club, site of this week’s U.S. Open, Mickelson stayed on message throughout a 25-minute news conference. He reiterated his commitment to the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which he called “transformative.” He used the word “respect” greater than 15 times, including 3 times in a single sentence, to explain his feelings toward those that opposed his decision. He made no apologies.

The players who’ve left the PGA Tour to play for the Saudi-backed LIV series and the players who’ve remained loyal to the PGA Tour began to assemble on Monday for the U.S. Open and for the primary time since Mickelson and the opposite players who jumped to LIV were suspended by Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner.

Most of the golfers who selected to play in LIV’s inaugural event last week outside London resigned from the tour to avoid being suspended, but Mickelson didn’t, and he expressed hope that he could in the future return to the tour, twice citing his lifetime membership to the organization.

“I’ve earned that lifetime membership, so I think that it ought to be my selection,” he said.

The LIV series events are the richest tournaments in golf history — last week’s total purse was $25 million, with a $20 million pot for the person event and $5 million more to separate in team competition. Charl Schwartzel, 37, finished first in each the person and team competitions, earning $4.75 million. The last-place finisher at each event is guaranteed $120,000. Mickelson finished in a five-way tie for thirty third place at 10 over par for the no-cut, 54-hole tournament. He received around $150,000.

LIV Golf will hold its next event in the USA. It begins June 30 outside Portland, Ore., and is one among five U.S. events.

Mickelson was paid a reported $200 million to participate within the series, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Dustin Johnson, the highest-ranked player to participate up to now, was reportedly paid as much as $150 million. The previous Masters champion Patrick Reed and the 2020 U.S. Open champion, Bryson DeChambeau, are expected to officially join LIV Golf soon.

The USA Golf Association, which runs the U.S. Open, allowed Mickelson and any of the opposite suspended players to take part in this week’s event provided they met the organization’s qualifying rules. Mickelson did. Other LIV players in the sector include Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Talor Gooch and Louis Oosthuizen.

But as players descended on suburban Boston and the history-rich venue, Mickelson was the indisputable attraction on Monday. He had not held such a news conference in the USA in 4 months. He hasn’t spoken to Monahan since October. He had been out of touch over that span by design, to work on personal and family issues.

Certainly one of the problems was his gambling.

“I continued to work on some areas that I’m deficient of in my life. I mean, the apparent one is gambling,” he said. “I’ve been working on that for years, and I’m very joyful with where I’m at with that. But I’ll must proceed to work on that the remainder of my life.”

Mickelson was asked quite a few times about negative reactions from fans and fellow players about his decision. He said he had the “utmost respect” for players on the tour and that the friendships he had forged over his skilled profession will remain intact. He also stressed how much he had boosted the tour.

“I feel good concerning the efforts I put in to try to present back to the sport of golf in addition to the tour,’’ he said. “I’m excited concerning the opportunity that LIV Golf presents for me and the sport of golf going forward.”

Mickelson said he planned to play in the remainder of the LIV events in addition to next month’s British Open at St. Andrews.

“Anything aside from that will be pure speculation,” he said. “I don’t understand how that is all going to play out.” He added: “My preference is to find a way to decide on which path I would love, one or the opposite, or each.”

A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series

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A recent series. The brand new Saudi-financed, controversy-trailed LIV Golf series held its first event in June. But what’s it? Who’s playing it? What’s all of the hubbub, and how will you watch it? Here’s what to know:

What’s LIV Golf? The series is an upstart skilled golf circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Its organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the very best level of professional golf for nearly a century.

Who’s playing it? The 48 players within the initial LIV Golf event weren’t exactly a who’s who of golf, and plenty of of the most important names in the game, corresponding to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away. But there have been big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García.

What’s attracting the players? The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history. The primary tournament’s total purse was $25 million, and the winner’s share was $4 million. The last-place finisher at each event was guaranteed $120,000. That’s on top of the looks fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts some players have accepted.

How can I watch the brand new tour? Despite its high-profile golfers and its big-money backing, LIV Golf has not yet secured a broadcast rights agreement in the USA and will likely be shown on lesser-watched streaming services in much of the world. In the USA, this week’s tournament will likely be available via live streams on LIVGolf.com, YouTube and Facebook.

As of now, nevertheless, Mickelson and the others are ineligible for PGA Tour events, including the Ryder Cup. Justin Thomas, who won the P.G.A. Championship in May, said on Monday that he grew up wanting to compete in such tournaments and was concerned how the events is likely to be impacted by the LIV series.

“The indisputable fact that things like that might potentially get hurt due to among the those that are leaving, and if more go, it’s just sad,” Thomas said. “There’s really no other approach to say it. It just makes me sad.” He added: “I lost loads of sleep last week occupied with what could occur.”

On Sunday, Monahan, who declined an interview request through a spokesman, spoke to Jim Nantz in the course of the CBS broadcast of the Canadian Open. “You may have to ask yourself the query, why is that this group spending a lot money, billions of dollars, recruiting players and chasing an idea with no possibility of a return?” Monahan said, later adding, “I’d ask any player that has left, or any player that will consider leaving, have you ever ever needed to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?”

The U.S. Open, which Mickelson is playing for the thirty first time, is the one major tournament he has not won, and he has had greater than his share of heartbreak, ending as runner-up six times. He played the course Sunday and said, “it’s going to be a brutal test of golf. That’s what this championship is all about.”

Wearing his trademark black outfit but without the familiar sponsorship patches of Callaway, Heineken, KPMG and Workday, Mickelson acknowledged the apparent — his decision to affix LIV Golf didn’t come without repercussions. His sponsors dropped him after incendiary comments made to the journalist Alan Shipnuck became public.

Mickelson then retreated from the general public stage, calling his self-enforced hiatus “a vital time and a possibility for me to step away just a little bit and put just a little little bit of thought and reflection into going forward and tips on how to best prioritize things.” He has done that, he said.

“It’s nice to be back,” he said. “Golf is fortunate to be back, and I’m excited to be back here and take part in this incredible championship that has eluded me for my whole profession.”

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