Mickelson Explains Celebration Of Open Champions Absence

Lefty has found himself out of favour for his participation in the controversial LIV Golf Series

Phil Mickelson during the first round of the 2022 Open Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While the rest of the golfing world has been in celebratory mood, Phil Mickelson has been notable for his absence this week in St Andrews.

Normally in the spotlight, Lefty's participation in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series has left him out of favour in some quarters, and after signing for a level-par 72 to begin his bid for a seventh Major, the 52-year-old explained why he wasn't honoured alongside his fellow former Open winners at the Celebration of Champions on Monday and subsequent Champions' Dinner on Tuesday evening.

"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," he said. "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."

Video: What is LIV Golf?

Also missing from events in the build-up to the 150th Open was LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman. The R&A uninvited the Australian amid fears his presence would take the shine off the Championship and its heritage.

Some of the game's biggest names have been sanctioned by the traditional tours for competing in the Norman-fronted events without a release. The PGA Tour has issued indefinite suspensions while the DP World Tour fined its members £100,000 and banned them from the three newly co-sanctioned tournaments on the 2022 schedule. 

In a further blow to LIV defectors, they now face the prospect of being banned by the four Majors from 2022 onwards. On Tuesday, R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers said the governing body would "review our exemptions and qualifications criteria for the Open" and it is understood that an avenue under consideration is to deny anyone who is suspended from either the PGA or DP World Tour a spot in future editions of the game's oldest championship.

It is also believed the four Major organisations would act in unison in changing the qualifying criteria for the game's marquee events. Such a move would deepen the divide at the pinnacle of the men's game and deal the Saudi-funded venture a massive blow in its bid to establish itself as a legitimate long-term rival to the status quo.

Despite the controversy, Mickelson insists he is happy with the decision he's made, adding: "I love the [LIV] events. I get to have golf in my life and competitive golf in my life on a scale that is fun, exciting, different, and lets me play and compete but still do the things outside that I want to do."

Andrew Wright
Staff Writer

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.

Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.

As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.

What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x