December 9, 2022

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Phil Mickelson revealed on Thursday after his British Open first round that the R&A advised him not to partake in the past champions activities this week at St. Andrews.

The R&A, the governing body for the British Open, conducted the Celebration of Champions – a four-hole exhibition featuring past winners – on Monday, and there was a champions dinner on Tuesday night.

Much the way LIV Golf leader Greg Norman was uninvited from coming to St. Andrews this week, Mickelson was informed the R&A would prefer he stay away – other than playing the tournament.

“The R&A contacted me a couple weeks before and said, ‘Look, we don’t think it’s a great idea you go, but if you want to, you can,’ ” Mickelson said after shooting an even-par opening round on the Old Course Thursday. “I just didn’t want to make a big deal about it, so I said ‘fine.’ We both kind of agreed that it would be best if I didn’t.”

Phil Mickelson
Getty Images

When the same reporter asked Mickelson, the 2013 British Open champion, a question about not being invited to the festivities, Mickelson bristled and said, “Let it go, dude. Let it go. That’s three times you’ve asked the same question. I don’t know what to tell you. I couldn’t be happier.”

Mickelson, 52, has been the face of the Norman-led, Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour and has received the most backlash over it, including from Tiger Woods, who on Tuesday was vocal in his disdain for players involved with LIV.

“I certainly respect his opinion,” Mickelson said of Woods. “I have a lot of respect for him. I respect his opinion. I think everybody’s going to have strong emotions and opinions about it, and I certainly respect his.”

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Mickelson, who was paid a reported $200 million by the Saudis, defended his choice to play on the LIV tour.

Phil Mickelson tees off at St. Andrews
Phil Mickelson tees off at St. Andrews
Reuters

“I made the right decision for me,” he said. “And I’m excited about having the opportunity to play competitive golf and have it in my life in a more moderate scale to where I can do some things outside of that too. I freed up a lot of time as well. I couldn’t be happier. I think it’s been really good. I can’t wait to get to New Jersey and play another event there (in two weeks at Trump Bedminster).

“The player experience, the experience of those events from a player standpoint is a 10. You can’t get it any better. Look, it’s not my job to explain or help you understand or whatever. It’s just … I couldn’t be happier.”

Asked about the impact the fallout has had on him personally, Mickelson said, “It’s all going to play out in time. I think it’s all going to play out and end up where it should be in time.”