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Should he not qualify, Mickelson 'won't accept' special exemption into U.S. Open

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Phil Mickelson isn’t yet qualified to play the U.S. Open this summer at Winged Foot, where he could author one of the great stories in the game’s history should he complete the career Grand Slam.

At 50, he would be the oldest winner in the history of the championship by almost five years.

Asked about the possibility of getting in with a USGA special exemption, Mickelson surprised with his answer.

“I won't accept it,” he said. “So, I am either going to get in the field on my own, or I'll have to try to qualify. I'm not going to take a special exemption.”

Why not?

“I don't want a special exemption,” he said. “I think I'll get in the tournament. If I get in, I deserve to be there. If I don't, I don't. I don't want a sympathy spot. If I am good enough to make it and qualify, then I need to earn my spot there.”

Mickelson was asked if a special exemption offer would really feel like sympathy or a reward for a great career.

“I see it as the former, and I don’t want that,” he said.

Mickelson climbed to No. 72 in the Official World Golf Ranking with his tie for third at the Saudi International last weekend. He needs to crack the top 60 in the world rankings as of two weeks before the U.S. Open or by the week of the event to be exempt to play at Winged Foot. Or, he needs to win the Masters, The Players, the PGA Championship or multiple PGA Tour events (that aren’t opposite field events), all of which would assure he’s among the top 60 anyway.

Or, he could earn his way in through a U.S. Open sectional qualifier.