Phil Mickelson was involved in a testy exchange with reporters after his first round of play at The Open Championship.
Mickelson said after finishing on an even par 72 he had not attended the traditional Champions dinner earlier in the week because the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews did not consider it wise.
The American is among a group of players who have inflicted the wrath of the PGA Tour by joining LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded breakaway series that has sparked a civil war in the sport.
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“The R&A contacted me a few weeks before and said, ‘Look, we don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go, but if you want to, you can.’ I just didn’t want to make a fuss about it, so I said, ‘Fine,'” Mickelson told the media.
“We both agreed that it would be better if I didn’t.”
Mickelson isn’t the only former Open champion associated with the LIV series. Two-time champion Greg Norman, CEO of the Rebel League, was asked not to come to St Andrews for dinner as his presence could have distracted from the tournament. Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 champion, was however there.
On the course, Mickelson was featured on the first tee to light applause from the sparse crowd. With the jug of claret perched on a nearby podium, the six-time major winner stood up and let it tear.
He had a better reception than that given to Ian Poulter, another LIV golfer, a few minutes earlier. Despite being a grand Ryder Cup champion for Europe, the Englishman received boos when he started outside the clubhouse first.
“I haven’t heard one,” Poulter said after finishing 3-under at 69.
“I actually thought I had a great reception on the first tee, to be honest. All I heard was applause.
A veteran competes in the Open Eagle
Along the way, both players received lots of cheers and encouragement.
“I love being here,” Mickelson said after his round with three birdies and three bogeys.
“Everyone here loves golf and we find this place very spiritual. As great as this game was for me, to be able to come home here and compete again – I think it’s my sixth here – I’ve had some great moments here.
However, it’s unclear exactly how many more are in his future.
R&A chief Martin Slumbers previously threatened to change the criteria for the British Open, possibly making it harder for LIV-affiliated players to advance to golf’s oldest championship. He said: “there is no free lunch.”
Mickelson, however, said he has no regrets about his decision to go for the new series.
“I love events,” he said.
“I can have golf in my life and competitive golf in my life on a scale that is fun, exciting, different, and allowing me to play and compete while doing the things outside that I want to do.
“I have a nice trip planned after this and things I haven’t been able to do in the past. So, no, I couldn’t be happier.
But after being pressed again about his feeling of missing the Champions Dinner, Mickelson’s patience quickly ran out.
“Never mind, man. Never mind,” he said dryly.
“You’ve asked the same question three times. I don’t know what to tell you, I couldn’t be happier.
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