Phil Mickelson dodges PGA Tour ban question ahead of Saudi debut and makes US Open stance

‘He has his opinion, I have mine’ – Tiger Woods on Phil Mickelson controversy

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Phil Mickleson has refused to confirm if he has been sanctioned by the PGA Tour as he prepares to play in the inaugural Saudi-backed LIV Golf invitational event this week. In a huge blow to the status quo, the six-time major champion ended long-standing speculation by confirming he has signed up for Greg Norman’s rebel tour, for a fee reportedly in the region of £100 million.

It follows the American, 51, taking a prolonged break from the sport after his explosive comments on February, where despite declaring his interest in Norman’s venture he labelled the state of Saudi Arabia as “scary motherf******.” As a result, he missed the US Masters in April, and despite initially being named in the field, didn’t defend his US PGA title at Southern Hills the following month.

And in a week that threatens to change the face of golf, Mickelson’s apparent defection was compounded by former world No 1 Dustin Johnson confirming he had resigned from the PGA Tour. The 37-year-old will now be ineligible to play in next year’s Ryder Cup.

The pair will be among a host of star names to tee off at St Albans on Thursday, with prize funds of £20 million available to the 48-man field. The £4 million prize for the winner is alomost double that of what Justin Thomas made for winning the US PGA, whilst a team event will also run alongside the individual competition.

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During Wednesday’s press conference at The Centurion Club, Mickleson was asked to confirm if he had served, or was serving, a ban at the hands of the PGA Tour. However, he was in no mood for full disclosure, stating: “I choose not to speak publicly on PGA Tour issues at this time.”

On the contrary, he was happy to confirm he would be teeing off at Brookline next week for the third major championship of the year: “I will play next week’s US Open. I’m looking forward to it,” he replied. The tournament remains the only major to have alluded him in his storybook career.

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But the player dubbed ‘Lefty’ did express regrets over his public criticism of the [PGA] Tour, having previously accused the American-based circuit of ‘obnoxious greed’: “I’ve really enjoyed my time on the PGA Tour,” he insisted.

“I’ve had some incredible experiences, made some great memories, and I have a lot of strong opinions on things that could, and should, be a lot of better. One of the mistakes I’ve made is voicing those publicly, so I will really make an effort to keep those conversations behind closed doors going forward.”

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