Phil Mickelson on US Open: “I’m Excited To Be Back.”

U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson,Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson,Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports /

Phil Mickelson’s Monday press conference at the U.S. Open was probably not the most comfortable one in his career, but he got through it without hurting himself or anyone else.

At this point, that’s a plus for him. He had turned himself into a human punching bag in the last six months over the Saudi-backed LIV golf organization.

Mickelson’s eyes looked hollow and there seemed to be circles under them.  Just bad lighting?  Or tough 2022.

When we last heard from Phil Mickelson, he was throwing grenades at the PGA Tour, at the Saudis, and at everyone except LIV golf. That part of his behavior is over, he said. He is now trying to turn a page, and of course, everyone wants to know why he jumped to LIV golf.

First, there’s the money.  That’s what everyone suspected. Reportedly, Mickelson got $200 million for joining LIV golf.  The money and the extra freedom that comes with it were big incentives for him.  It is absolute life security for him and his kids and his kids’ kids and their kids. Even if the new tour doesn’t last any more than three years.

"“There are other factors that, with fewer tournaments, it allows me to have more balance in my life,” he explained. “It allows me to do things that are off the golf course I’ve always wanted to do.”"

He didn’t elaborate on that, but he has never been one to play a heavy schedule, and his private life has remained mostly private.

“I’ve earned that lifetime membership, so I believe that it should be my choice.” — Phil Mickelson

Currently, Phil Mickelson is under a suspension from the PGA Tour, and that could be an issue of contention down the road. He didn’t say it, but what he did mention is his lifetime membership.

"“I’ve worked hard to earn a lifetime membership,” he said. “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 that it should be my choice.”"

Lifetime membership comes with 20 PGA Tour victories.

And that may be the real issue for someone like Mickelson who has more than twice that number.  He’s the guy, if you’ll remember, who skipped tournaments, including the U.S. Open, for his kids’ graduations.

He would like to be able to play LIV and the PGA Tour, but as of now, that’s impossible, so he picked the one with guaranteed money and hopes some kind of deal can be worked out in the future even though it doesn’t look like it now.

The hardest question was when he was asked about 9/11 families who reportedly sent letters to all the LIV participants.

There’s no good answer to that.  No matter what he says, it won’t be enough. Nothing anybody says will be enough.  He said he had the deepest empathy and sympathy for them. Words don’t bring people back.

Phil Mickelson admits gambling problem

While it wasn’t a shock, Phil Mickelson also admitted to a gambling problem which, until the recent book on his career, was a more well-hidden rumor than fact.

From his comments at the U.S. Open, he may actually be a gambling addict because he said his gambling was something he will have to work on for the rest of his life.

Regarding his feelings on the USGA and the PGA Tour, he said he’s going to keep his thoughts and opinions behind closed doors instead of making them public.  Certainly, had he done that, it could have saved him a lot of heartache in the last six months.

“That’s one of the mistakes I’ve been making,” he admitted.

In fact, it sounded like he had made a laundry list of self-improvement projects, starting with gambling, keeping some of his thoughts between himself and the people or organizations involved, improving personal relationships  — whatever those are — and other things we don’t know.

Phil Mickelson is, naturally, not worried about sponsor relationships this minute, but said Chip Brewer, CEO of Callaway Golf, is more than that.

"“He is also a very good friend and somebody I look up to and respect,” Mickelson added."

He said their relationship transcended sponsorship.

There was the question of where he will play in the near future.  It will be LIV events and the British Open.  He would like to be able to play on the PGA Tour, but right now, he can’t.

"“Anything other than that would be pure speculation,” he said. “I don’t know how this is all going to play out.”"

Looking forward, it seems that there is going to be a battle between the PGA Tour and those players who have earned lifetime exemptions, i.e., Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

Whether it gets into a court or is resolved some other way remains to be seen. The suspensions seem less likely to cause legal issues since, as David Duval said, nobody is making them join the PGA Tour.

Whether there is an avenue for bringing some other changes to the PGA Tour, is unknown.

Next. 2022 US Open: Top 10 Power Rankings at Brookline. dark

Maybe this is all about reduced schedules for players of a certain level or who have won a certain number of events.  We just don’t know enough about what the players who exited want, except more money.  And despite what Phil Mickelson thinks, sponsors do not grow on trees, ripe for the harvesting.