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Phil Mickelson to return this week at first LIV Golf event; intends to play majors

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Phil Mickelson will round out the field for this week’s LIV Golf Invitational Series event in London, according to an 11th-hour announcement issued by the startup circuit on Monday.

Mickelson had long been linked to the Saudi-backed league, but was not on the initial field list when it was released last week. Mickelson missed last month’s PGA Championship, where he was the defending champion, and had been in self-imposed exile since he was quoted on the Fire Pit Collective website criticizing both LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.

Mickelson later apologized for what he called “reckless” comments and hasn’t played anywhere in the world since the Saudi International on the Asian Tour in February.

Mickelson joins Dustin Johnson, world No. 35 Talor Gooch, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood in this week’s field at the Centurion Club. The 54-hole, 48-player event begins Thursday and will feature 12 teams and a $25 million total purse. It’s the first of eight scheduled events this year.

“I am ready to come back to play the game I love but after 32 years this new path is a fresh start, one that is exciting for me at this stage of my career and is clearly transformative, not just for myself, but ideally for the game and my peers,” Mickelson said in a statement released on social media. “I also intend to play the majors.”

Mickelson is one of 15 Tour members in this week’s field who were denied conflicting-event releases, which are required under the circuit’s regulation, to play the LIV tournament. Tour officials reiterated to player managers last week at the Memorial that any player who defies the release order and plays the LIV event will face sanctions; although, according to various sources at the meeting, specific punishments were not given.

There had been some speculation that Mickelson had already been suspended by the Tour for his remarks in the Fire Pit Collective story.

“They’re scary mother---ers to get involved with,” Mickelson said of LIV Golf’s Saudi backers. “We know [the Saudi regime] killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”

Phil calls gambling habit 'reckless' in interview

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Mickelson later said his comments were intended to be off the record and were taken out of context, but he did not say he was misquoted.

“[The Tour] has been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse,” Mickelson 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.”

Mickelson is one of 11 players in the LIV Golf event who are qualified for next week’s U.S. Open and he is currently listed in the field at Brookline.