During his 25-minute session with reporters in advance of the US Open, Mickelson said his preference would be “to be able to choose which path I’d like. One or the other or both”.
“I’m very appreciative of the many memories, opportunities, experiences, friendships and relationships the PGA Tour has provided and those are going to last a lifetime,” Mickelson said. “But I’m hopeful that I’ll have a chance to create more.”
Mickelson led a defection by 17 PGA Tour members to the LIV Golf series, a move the tour countered by suspending those who decided to keep their memberships.
Asked why he ultimately made the move, he said, “I think that there is an obvious incredible financial commitment”.
Mickelson reportedly made $270 million to move to the new series. The Saudi backing of the new tour has led to criticism that those playing in the events are helping the kingdom whitewash its widely criticised human rights record and its connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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Sporting the stubbly beard he debuted to the public last weekend at the LIV event outside London, Mickelson spoke of the lifetime membership he’s earned over 30 years on the PGA Tour. He said he had no intention of resigning, the way Dustin Johnson, Kevin Na, Sergio Garcia and some others have, and that there was no use predicting his future on the tour.
“I’ve earned that lifetime membership, so I think it should be my choice,” he said.
Mickelson, who turns 52 on Thursday, earned a five-year exemption to the US Open when he won the PGA Championship last year. It means five more chances to capture the only major that has eluded him.
He was asked a few times about what his decision to play for the Saudi-backed golf league might do to his standing with a fan base that has adored him over the decades.
“I respect and I understand their opinions,” Mickelson said.
“And I understand that they have strong feelings and strong emotions regarding this choice. And I certainly respect that.”
He was also deferential to the players he has competed against over the years, many of whom have been sharply critical of the new league.
“I respect if they disagree,” he said. “But at this time this is the right decision.”
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