Phil Mickelson has returned to the premises of Augusta National Golf Club one year after taking a leave of absence from the game at the commencement of the LIV Golf controversy.
Mickelson did not play the 2022 Masters, which took place several weeks after he made controversial comments about Saudi Arabia and the then-upstart LIV league to golf writer Alan Shipnuck.
“It’s great,” Mickelson told reporters Tuesday. “It’s fun to be back. Everyone has been wonderful.”
Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, told reporters last year that Mickelson chose not to come — he wasn’t uninvited.
Twelve months later, LIV Golf is in its second season and 18 of its members are in the field for the Masters. Among them is Mickelson, who reportedly declined a pre-tournament press conference but spoke to several reporters Tuesday after a practice round.
“It’s great to be back,” Mickelson said Tuesday. “It is my favorite week, so being here and being a part of it and being able to experience this great place and what it means is so fun because, as a kid, you grow up dreaming about being a part of this. You dream of winning it, being in contention, and then when you actually are a pro and you are playing here, you’re like, ‘Wow, I want to be a part of this every year.'”
Mickelson will attend Tuesday night’s Champions Dinner, reserved only for players who have won a green jacket. He did not let on that he was worried about any awkwardness with fellow diners like Fred Couples, who has been highly critical of Mickelson and other LIV golfers and called the 52-year-old a “nutbag” recently.
“Fred and I are longtime 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.”
Mickelson prevailed at Augusta in 2004, 2006 and 2010. But his game has not been nearly as sharp since winning the 2021 PGA Championship to become the oldest major winner in golf history. He has only one top-10 finish and two top-20s in his time on the LIV circuit.
Mickelson was asked if he feels he can play well enough to slip on a fourth green jacket Sunday.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel that way,” he said. “Also, I’ve got to be realistic. I haven’t scored the way I want to, but I do see a lot of positive signs. I’m going to try to just be patient, whether it’s this week or soon, because things are about to click.”
–Field Level Media