Phil Mickelson not sure whether he’d accept special exemption into U.S. Open at Torrey Pines

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Phil Mickelson told ESPN that he is not sure whether he’d accept a special exemption into the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which will run from June 17-20 near his hometown of San Diego.

Mickelson sits at No. 113 in the world rankings, well outside qualifying position for the year’s third major—he’d need to be inside the top 60 either on May 27 or June 7. His other avenue into the field, apart from an exemption from the USGA would be through sectional qualifying. Mickelson shot two-over 73 in the first round of the Valspar Championship on Thursday.

“I don’t know. I just don’t know the answer to that right now,” Mickelson told ESPN’s Bob Harig after posting a two-over 73 to open the Valspar Championship on Thursday. “I’m scheduled to go through qualifying the day after the Memorial.”

The U.S. Open remains the lone major Mickelson hasn’t won—but he’s been close more times than anyone else. Lefty’s six runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open, most recently in 2013 at Merion, are the most all-time. He has not been able to replicate that success in recent years, however, as his best finish in his six U.S. Open starts since is a T-28.

In February 2020, Mickelson suggested he would not accept a special invite into the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, but that became a moot point when he qualified thanks to one-time exemption rules due to the pandemic. He missed the cut that week.

Mickelson, who will turn 51 the day before this year’s U.S. Open begins, has had a somewhat frosty relationship with the USGA over the years. He has been a harsh critic of U.S. Open setups, his frustration peaking during the third round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills when he intentionally putted a moving ball on a green rather than let it run down a slope. He did, however, praise the USGA’s setup during the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and said last year at Winged Foot that “the course couldn’t be set up any better.”

The USGA does not often hand out special exemptions, and typically does so only for past champions of the event. The most recent player to receive one was two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els in 2019.

Mickelson has a terrific history at Torrey Pines, having won the Farmers Insurance Open three times and finished runner-up twice, and he finished T-18 there at the 2008 U.S. Open. And while Mickelson will soon move to South Florida, his high school alma mater is just eight miles away from Torrey Pines and he has called Southern California home since turning professional.

This would, then, constitute a home game. But Mickelson insists he is not swayed by such sentimentality.

“The venue doesn’t matter,” he told ESPN. “I just don’t’ know the answer yet.”

The five-time major winner has not won on the PGA Tour since February 2019 and does not have a top-10 on tour since last August.

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