Despite his involvement with the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series, Phil Mickelson insisted on Thursday that he will be able to play The Masters next April.
Mickelson, who has drawn perhaps the most criticism for his role with the Saudi Arabian-backed league, doesn’t think Augusta National will move to ban him and other LIV Golf players.
“I believe wholeheartedly I’ll be at Augusta,” Mickelson told Sports Illustrated’s Bob Harig on Thursday. “I thought my conversations with [Masters chairman] Fred Ridley [last spring], which I will keep between us, were extremely classy. I have the utmost respect for him and the leaders of the majors.
“There’s been to date no threat at all. I’m not saying that couldn’t change. I just don’t see how that could benefit anybody. I believe they are wise enough and great leaders who can see that.”
What will the Masters do?
The Masters is completely separate from the PGA Tour, and is able to create its own standards for the field.
Augusta National invites players who are ranked inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings, winners and top performers from the other majors and previous Masters champions — who receive a lifetime exemption. It also can invite players at its own discretion.
Mickelson is one of several LIV Golf members who have won the Masters and holds a lifetime exemption. By that standard alone, he should be allowed to compete.
Augusta National, however, has not made any comment about whether or not it will allow LIV Golf members to play in 2023 — and it likely won’t for some time.
Mickelson also called out Augusta National in his lawsuit against the PGA Tour, where he claimed the organization took “multiple actions to indicate its alignment with the PGA Tour” and even “threatened to disinvite players from the Masters if they joined LIV Golf.”
Mickelson isn’t alone in talking about the Masters now, either. Fellow Masters champion Bubba Watson addressed the tournament ahead of his appearance at LIV Golf’s event in Boston.
“For me, it’s a weird situation being a Masters champion,” Watson said. “Right now, we can play in it, and I'm hoping and praying they make the right decisions.
“I sat my kids down and told them there is a possibility we can't go to Augusta,” Watson added. “If they [the powers that be at Augusta National] tell me I can’t go, [even being a] past champion, then I don't want to be there anyway because that's just the wrong way to look at it.”
Mickelson said golfers, both on LIV and PGA Tour, are ‘appreciative’
Mickelson also told Sports Illustrated that he has heard from “numerous” golfers on both circuits who are “appreciative” of what has come since LIV Golf was launched.
Mickelson, who has been suspended from the PGA Tour, said he is still committed to playing with LIV Golf. But seeing the changes that the PGA Tour has launched — like getting top players to compete in at least 20 events each year, elevating purses at events and more — is a great thing.
While he stopped short of taking credit, he’s pleased with what he’s seeing.
“I don’t think vindication is what I would say. I would say I’m generally happy that the top players who are really driving the Tour and creating the interest are being listened to,” Mickelson said. “And what they are doing for the Tour is being valued now. I’m happy to see that happen. … I think players on both sides of LIV and the PGA Tour are appreciative of what is happening. Every player is benefiting.’’