Phil Mickelson: PGA Tour shouldn’t be allowed to ban me

Phil Mickelson, a master of the short irons, suddenly finds himself in the middle of golf’s biggest wedge problem.

The six-time major champion has been banned from the PGA Tour for playing in a competing league event – he’s a main attraction of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series – but he believes it should be his decision whether he will attend another tour event.

“I prefer to be able to choose which path I want, one way or the other or both,” Mickelson said Monday in his press conference ahead of this week’s US Open, his first competition on American soil in more than four months.

The famous tournament, which begins Thursday, will be held at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. The US Open, hosted by the US Golf Association, is the only major event standing between Mickelson and a career grand slam.

Mickelson was reportedly paid $200 million just for joining the burgeoning LIV Golf League and, along with Dustin Johnson and more than a dozen other stars of the game, has been harshly criticized for joining an organization backed by a repressive regime becomes.

Without permission from the PGA Tour, the group played a first-ever LIV Golf event outside of London last week, prompting tour suspensions and retirements. Mickelson argued Monday that given his lifelong status on the tour, it should be his decision whether to participate in future tour events.

“I 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 in my 30+ years as a professional golfer and I’ve earned this lifetime membership so I believe it should be my choice.”

Justin Thomas, who won the PGA Championship last month, said he wasn’t surprised by other competitors’ decisions to switch to LIV Golf but was concerned about the impact it will have on the game.

Phil Mickelson tees off from the number 16 tee Saturday at the LIV Golf Invitational at the Centurion Club in St Albans, England.

Phil Mickelson watches from the 16th tee during the final round of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational at the Centurion Club in St Albans, England on Saturday.

(Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

“I’ve been tossing and turning and losing a lot of sleep over the past week thinking about what could possibly happen,” Thomas said. “I’ve grown up wanting to play on the PGA Tour, break records, make history, play Presidents Cups, play Ryder Cups all my life.

“The fact that things like that could potentially get hurt because some of the people are leaving, and if more are leaving, it’s just sad. There really is no other way to say it. It just makes me sad.”

According to a New York Post report, a coalition of families and survivors of the September 11 terrorist attacks sent a horrifying letter to representatives of Mickelson, Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and other defectors from LIV Golf, accusing them of threatening their country to have betrayed. 15 of the 19 hijackers in 2001 were Saudi nationals. The letter was written by Terry Strada, whose husband boarded a plane in Boston that was being flown to the World Trade Center.

“I would say to the Strada family, I would say to anyone who lost loved ones and friends on 9/11 that I have a deep, deep sympathy for them,” Mickelson said. “I can’t empathize enough with that.”

Mickelson said he plans to play the British Open at St Andrews next month but otherwise his schedule is yet to be determined.

When asked what he gets from LIV Golf that the PGA Tour doesn’t, he cited the “incredible financial commitment” and fewer tournaments, which “allows me to have more balance in my life.

“It allows me to do things that are off the golf course, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.” Phil Mickelson: PGA Tour shouldn’t be allowed to ban me

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