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Phil Mickelson 'feels so good' about playing LIV Golf Series and will not resign from PGA Tour

Phil Mickelson is competing at the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament at Centurion Club this week; the 51-year-old is returning to action after four months out, and intends to play next week's US Open; Mickelson adds he will not resign from PGA Tour

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Phil Mickelson has defended and explained his decision to join LIV Golf at a lengthy and sometimes uncomfortable news conference for the six-time major champion.

Phil Mickelson says he feels "so good" about the balance playing in the LIV Golf Series provides and added he will not resign from the PGA Tour during a tense press conference on Wednesday.

The 51-year-old is ending his self-imposed four-month exile from the sport to compete in this week's inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament at Centurion Club.

Mickelson skipped his PGA Championship defence following a backlash over comments he made about the Saudi-backed breakaway tour, and was facing the media for the first since confirming his LIV Golf participation on Monday.

The six-time major winner repeatedly said "I don't condone human rights violations" when asked about his reasons for competing in the tour, despite calling the Saudi regime "scary" back in February, and stressed LIV Golf can "do a lot of good for the game".

Addressing his break, Mickelson said: "I've had an awesome time, I've had a four-month break from the game. It's given me time to continue some of the work and therapy that I've been working on, on some areas I'm deficient in, in my life.

"It's given me time to reflect on what I want to do going forward, what's best for me, what's best for the people I care about. This allows me to be more present and engaged with people I care about.

"That is why, when I think about being a part of LIV Golf, I feel so good about it."

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Phil Mickelson says he had an 'awesome time' during his four months off from competing and feels good about being part of LIV Golf

Mickelson also said he will not speak publicly about PGA "issues", and refused to deny if he had been banned by the Tour.

As a lifetime member of the PGA Tour, Mickelson acknowledged he does not have to play any of their events, and does not see "any reason" to give up his membership following Dustin Johnson's resignation on Tuesday.

He did, however, confirm he would take part in the US Open next week - "I'm looking forward to it," he added.

On Tuesday, the USGA confirmed golfers competing in this week's LIV series opener will be allowed to play in next week's US Open, providing they had already qualified.

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Phil Mickelson says he has worked really hard to earn a lifetime exemption and does not believe he should have to give up on the PGA Tour

Mickelson 'sorry', will keep PGA talk 'behind closed doors'

Mickelson took plenty of pauses and considered his answers carefully when grilled about his participation in the event, which starts on Thursday, and the American once more apologised for his comments about the breakaway tour.

"I've said a lot of things I regret, I'm sorry for that and the hurt it's caused a lot of people," he said. "I don't condone human rights violations at all, nobody here does, throughout the world. I'm certainly aware of what has happened with Jamal Khashoggi and I think it's terrible.

What did Mickelson say before taking break?

Back in February, Mickelson apologised for his "reckless" comments about the Saudi-backed breakaway league.

It was revealed Mickelson called the Saudis "scary motherf****** to be involved with" and questioned the country's human rights record in an interview with Alan Shipnuck for his upcoming book on the 51-year old.

Mickelson went on to say the money on offer was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates".

He added: "As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won't do what's right.' And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I'm not sure I even want [the Saudi golf league] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour."

"I've also seen the good the game of golf has done throughout history. I believe LIV Golf is going to do a lot of good for the game as well. I'm excited about this opportunity. That's why I'm here."

Asked if he was a tool of "sports-washing" or could be seen as a "Saudi stooge", Mickelson replied: "I said earlier. I don't condone human rights violations. I don't know how I can be any more clear. I understand your question, but again, I love this game of golf, I've seen the good it's done and I see the opportunity for LIV Golf to do a lot of good for the game throughout the world."

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Sky Sports News' Jamie Weir explains why Phil Mickelson and other top players taking part in this week's LIV Golf Invitational Series are more than likely going to be allowed to play next week's US Open

He was then asked to clarify what he is apologising for, and Mickelson said: "I understand many people have strong opinions and may disagree with my decision. I can emphasise with that. But at this time, this is an opportunity that gives me a chance to have the most balance in my life going forward. I think this is going to do a lot of good for the game."

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Rory McIlroy says he can understand why some players left to join the LIV Golf series, however he insists that he is happy playing on the PGA Tour and wouldn't consider leaving.

Mickelson had spoken about using the Saudi tour as leverage to improve the PGA Tour, but said he will now keep his views about the latter under wraps.

He added: "I've really enjoyed my time on the PGA Tour. I've had some incredible experiences, great memories, and have a lot of strong opinions that should and could be a lot better. One of the mistakes I've made is voicing those publicly.

"I will really make an effort to keep those conversations behind closed doors going forward. That's the way to be the most efficient and get the most out of it."

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Golf Channel's Eamon Lynch says Phil Mickelson is 'eager to cash his conscience for a cheque' after announcing he'll play in the LIV Tour and would probably enjoy the circus if he plays at the US Open next week

Is there a future for Mickelson on the PGA Tour?

Mickelson has won 45 events on the PGA Tour in a career spanning more than three decades, and he stressed he does not want to cancel his membership with a tour that has provided him "incredible memories".

He said: "I have been a part of the Tour for over 30 years. I've had a lot of incredible memories that have been formed, and experiences I've shared. Tournaments I've won, and lost.

"I also received a lot from the PGA Tour. I'm very grateful for that, for everything the PGA Tour and the game of golf has provided for me and my family.

"I've also worked really hard to contribute and try to build and add value to the Tour during my time there.

"I worked really hard to earn a lifetime exemption, and I don't want to give that up, I don't believe I should have to. I don't know what that means for the future, I don't know what's going to happen. I've earned that, and I don't plan on just giving it up."

McIIory and Thomas: PGA Tour best place to play

Rory McIlroy has reaffirmed his commitment to the PGA Tour ahead of the start of the LIV Golf Series on Thursday.

The Northern Irishman was speaking after Bryson DeChambeau confirmed he will play in the second event of the Saudi-backed series, which starts in Portland later this month.

Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are also reportedly set to join the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood who are playing in the inaugural tournament at the Centurion Club.

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Rory McIlroy says he can understand why some players left to join the LIV Golf series, however he insists that he is happy playing on the PGA Tour and wouldn't consider leaving.

McIlroy respects their decision but will continue to play on the PGA Tour and has no intention of joining the LIV Golf Series.

"I think my stance on it has been pretty clear from the start. It's not something that I want to participate in," said McIlroy at his press conference ahead of this week's Canadian Open, where he is the 'defending champion' after winning the last staging of the tournament back in 2019.

"I certainly understand the guys that went and understand what their goals and their ambitions are in their life, and I'm certainly not knocking anyone for going.

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Ian Poulter says playing in the LIV golf tour should not be viewed as controversial, describing it as a 'magnificent opportunity'.

"It is their life. It is their decision. They can live it the way they want to, but, for me, I want to play on the PGA Tour against the best players in the world.

Recently-crowned PGA champion Justin Thomas also insisted he has no bad feelings towards players that have decided to compete on the LIV Tour, though reaffirmed his belief the PGA Tour remains golf's best platform.

"I think a lot of us are, I don't know if annoyed or tired is the right way, it's just one of those things," he said. "I've thought a lot about it and it's like, people are entitled to choose as they wish, I don't dislike DJ (Dustin Johnson) now, I don't think he's a bad dude, I won't treat him any differently, he's entitled to choose as he wishes and I think the day and age we live in now is so negative.

"You see it in everything, sport, politics, whatever it is, if you disagree with somebody you just feel you're entitled to hate them and talk bad about them when everybody is entitled to their own opinion."

Johnson confirms PGA Tour resignation

Dustin Johnson confirmed he has resigned from the PGA Tour in order to compete in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series.

Speaking alongside fellow major-winners Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell at a LIV press conference at the Centurion Club on Tuesday, Johnson said he resigned his membership from the PGA Tour, which makes him ineligible for next year's Ryder Cup.

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Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen had to field difficult questions at the press conference for the opening LIV tour event

The former world No 1 expressed his excitement for the controversial new format, adding he believes it will be a "true test".

"Obviously at this time it's hard to speak on what the consequences will be, but for right now, I've resigned my membership from the PGA Tour," Johnson said. "I'm going to play here for now, and that's the plan.

"What the consequences are going to be, I can't comment on how the tour is going to handle it."

'We're not politicians', says McDowell

The transcript of the opening section of Tuesday's two press conferences:

Riath Al-Samarrai, Daily Mail: How do you reconcile your decision to be here with Saudi Arabia's human rights record?

Graeme McDowell: This has been incredibly polarising. The [Jamal] Khashoggi situation, I think we all agree that was reprehensible. No one's going to argue that fact - but we're golfers. Speaking personally, I really feel golf is a force of good in the world. I try to be a role model to kids. I know what the game has taught me. I love using the game of golf as something to help grow around the world and be role models to kids, try to use this game as a force for good. We're not politicians, we're professional golfers. If Saudi Arabia want to use the game of golf as a way for them to get to where they want to be, I think we're proud to help them on that journey.

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Graeme McDowell says the LIV Tour is not designed to divide, hopes 'we can all get on together' and that inclusion won't affect Ryder Cup participation

Rob Harris, Associated Press: The journey you have been told Saudi Arabia is on - how is that helping the women oppressed, the migrant groups having their rights violated, the LGBTQ individuals criminalised, the families of the 81 men executed in March and those being bombed in Yemen?

Graeme McDowell: I wish I had the ability to have that conversation with you. As golfers if we tried to cure geopolitical situations in every country in the world we played golf in, we wouldn't play a lot of golf. It's a really hard question to answer. We are here to just focus on the golf and what it does for the role models we are. It's a really hard question to get into.

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Martin Kaymer admits the extra money he'll earn playing in the LIV Series helps but insists it's not the only reason for joining the tour

Why is the LIV Golf Series so controversial?

Due to the PIF's links to the Saudi government, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman serving as chairman, LIV Golf has faced accusations of sports washing.

Norman has adamantly denied such claims, telling Sky Sports in May Saudi Arabia is "changing their culture within their country" and insisting "I do not answer to Saudi Arabia. I do not answer to their government or MBS".

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Greg Norman told Jamie Weir LIV Golf Investments is independent and will not answer to the Saudi government or Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud

Comments from a Mickelson interview with author Alan Shipnuck, who is writing an unauthorised biography of the six-time major winner, came to light in February, in which the 51-year-old questioned Saudi Arabia's human rights record and called the regime "scary".

Mickelson has since apologised for his "reckless" comments.

What is the format?

All 48 players compete against each other in a traditional stroke play format, with the lowest 54-hole total from the no-cut event being the winner, while a draft will help allocate players into the team format.

Each team will have a LIV appointed team captain who will select their three open team positions via a snake draft format, similar to those used on the Ladies European Tour in the Aramco Team Series.

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Former professional golfer Wayne Riley believes the LIV Golf tour is bad for the sport but doesn't blame players for joining the tour

For the first two rounds, the best two stroke play scores will count for each team. For the third and final round, the best three scores will count, with the lowest overall team score after 54 holes being named the team winner.

The format changes in the Team Championship, which is a seeded four-day, four-round, match play knock-out tournament. The top four seeds automatically receive a bye through the first round, with the remaining eight teams playing against each other to see who reaches the quarter-finals.

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