AUGUSTA, Georgia: Three-time champion Phil Mickelson, who missed the Masters in 2022 for the first time in 28 years as part of a self-imposed hiatus from the sport, said on Tuesday he is thrilled to be back at Augusta National and that his reception has been wonderful.
Mickelson missed the first two majors of 2022, including his title defence at the PGA Championship, as he stepped away from competition amid a backlash over comments he made about the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit, where he resumed his career last June.
But Mickelson, who has been as much a part of the Masters as the vibrant azaleas at Augusta National, is back in familiar surroundings and soaking up every moment as he gets set to make his 30th start in the tournament.
“It is my favourite 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,” said Mickelson.
“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’s happy-go-lucky personality, remarkable short game and go-for-broke nature produced some of the most memorable moments in Masters history and along the way he has been adored by the tournament’s patrons.
His public image took a hit in February 2022 when the author of an unauthorised biography on him released excerpts from the book in which the American golfer called the Saudis “scary” but said he was willing to look past their human rights records to gain leverage with the PGA Tour.
The 52-year-old Mickelson, who played nine practice holes on Tuesday with fellow LIV Golf players Dustin Johnson and Harold Varner III, said he was warmly received by all those who lined the famed course.
“It’s great. It’s fun to be back. Everyone has been wonderful,” said the six-time major winner. “Everybody here is so classy. Gosh, it’s fun to be here.”
Mickelson is scheduled to tee off in Thursday’s opening round at 12.24pm ET alongside fellow American Tom Hoge and South Korea’s Kim Si-woo.