LIV's Phil Mickelson has quiet dinner in low-key Masters return

Phil Mickelson of the US during a practice round on Wednesday

Phil Mickelson of the US during a practice round on Wednesday. Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters

Published Apr 5, 2023

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Augusta — Crow and humble pie were not on the menu for the Champions dinner at the 87th Masters, but LIV Golf star Phil Mickelson's silence at the esteemed gathering spoke volumes.

The six-time major winner, owner of three green jackets, was among 33 past winners who dined on Tuesday night at Augusta National in tribute to 2022 winner Scottie Scheffler.

Mickelson was among the players who led a charge of defections from the PGA Tour to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, putting him among those banned by the tour in a divide that is set for a court fight early next year.

Mickelson stayed away from last year's Masters in the wake of comments made public about his support of the "scary" Saudis in spite of human rights issues because they could bring "leverage" in his quest to have more prize money and limited-field events from the PGA Tour, something it has created in the wake of LIV's challenge.

The 52-year-old American left-hander made his return this year but reportedly turned down the chance for a news conference and spoke informally to reporters.

"It's great to be back," Mickelson said. “Everyone has been wonderful."

Mickelson was among six LIV Golf players at Tuesday night's Champions Dinner for past Masters winners and reportedly sat away from most fellow champions and stayed silent.

"Nobody said a word about (LIV)," 1979 Masters winner Fuzzy Zoeller told the Augusta Chronicle.

"Phil sat near the end of the table and kept to himself. He didn't speak at all."

Tommy Aaron, the 1973 Masters champion, confirmed Mickelson's low-key appearance.

"I wished him good luck," Aaron said. "But I couldn't believe how quiet he was. Phil took a very low profile. He didn't say a word."

Among those who spoke was 1992 winner Fred Couples, who earlier this year called Mickelson a "nutbag" and LIV's Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, a "clown".

"Fred and I are long-time friends and we've had a lot of great experiences in the game of golf," Mickelson said. "I think the world of him and I hope we have a chance to have more great experiences with him as well."

After becoming golf's oldest major winner at age 50 at the 2021 PGA Championship, Mickelson was set to be heralded at last year's Masters.

But Mickelson's Saudi support led some sponsors to drop him and he stepped away from golf, missing last year's Masters and PGA Championship.

He returned in June at LIV Golf's debut and was immediately banned by the PGA. Majors are allowing LIV players to compete and Mickelson made his joy clear when asked how much it hurt to miss last year.

"It's my favourite week," Mickelson said. "You grow up dreaming about being a part of this. It's a really special thing."

Mickelson is among 18 LIV players in this year's Masters field and hopes some of them are contenders on Sunday.

"It would be nice to validate the amount of talent that is over there on LIV and I think a lot of guys are playing really well heading in," Mickelson said. "So I think it will be fun to watch."

Asked if talking to reporters was the hardest thing for him this week, Mickelson replied, "It's not that hard. I've had worse the last couple years."

AFP

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MastersGolfLIV Golf