Phil Mickelson’s return from a four-month US layoff was a short one after joining many of his fellow Saudi-backed LIV Golf rebels in missing the cut Friday at the US Open.
The six-time major winner, who fired an eight-over-par 78 Thursday on his 52nd birthday, struggled to a 73 in the second round and at 11-over 151 would not play the weekend at The Country Club.
“I enjoyed the week. Wish I had played better,” Mickelson said. “I missed competing, but I also enjoyed some time away.”
Mickelson skipped the Masters and PGA Championship, which he won last year at age 50, after an exile following comments made public calling LIV Golf’s Saudi financiers “scary” and decrying their record on human rights issues.
The US left-hander apologized and said he wanted some time away after comments to author Alan Shipnuck were made public about his willingness to set those issues aside in order to have leverage against the US PGA Tour.
Mickelson was among 17 players given indefinite suspensions last week by the PGA for playing in LIV Golf’s debut event in England. The $25 million, 54-hole tournament paid out $7.5 million more in prize money than the US Open will.
The US Open became the first venue for a PGA-LIV showdown after it decided to stick with its qualifying rules and not ban LIV players.
Mickelson called the event “spectacular” and the course setup “remarkable” as he exited Friday after supportive comments from spectators over his two rounds.
“The fans here have always been terrific,” Mickelson said. “They create a really special atmosphere.”
The 15 LIV golf players in the field were a combined 53-over par on day one and 12 of 15 were in at a total of 25-over for day two.
Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, a LIV Golf player safely inside the cut on 141 after a 73 on Friday, also praised the fans and said he wasn’t apprehensive about playing due to the LIV-PGA fracture.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I was coming in here, preparing, getting ready to try and win a US Open.
“I’m playing pretty well. Just need to tighten it up just a little bit come the weekend.”
– DJ ‘very happy’ –
Johnson said he looks forward to the remaining seven LIV Golf 54-hole events despite the controversy it has raised.
“Obviously it was a tough decision, but I feel very confident in the decision I made,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely happy and looking forward to this weekend and the rest of the events this year.”
Johnson said his attorney oversaw his LIV Golf deal and he would have rather pushed back the timing bit.
“I would have liked to have gone just a hair later, but it made sense to go when I did,” Johnson said.
Fellow US major winners Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau signed last weekend with LIV Golf and expect to play their first event in Oregon in two weeks.
Among LIV golf players well back, Australian Jed Morgan was third-from last on 156, South African Shaun Norris was on 148, South African Louis Oosthuizen and England’s Sam Horsfeld were on 146 and Americans Kevin Na and Talor Gooch were on 145.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia was flirting with the cut on 144.
Those likely set for the weekend include England’s Richard Bland and DeChambeau on 142 and Reed on 141.