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As he gears up to try and qualify for his hometown U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson remains undecided on if he will accept a special invitation from the USGA should he need one.
“I don’t know; I just don’t know the answer to that right now,” Mickelson told ESPN.com’s Bob Harig on Thursday at the Valspar Championship.
Mickelson, who is currently ranked No. 113 in the Official World Golf Ranking, has a couple of other paths into the June 17-20 championship at Torrey Pines in San Diego. He can qualify either via the top 60 of the world rankings by May 24 or June 7, or he can get in through sectional qualifying. Mickelson will play Wells Fargo, the PGA Championship and Memorial before the final cutoff, and he’s also entered into sectionals in Ohio the day after Memorial.
The 50-year-old has competed in 31 U.S. Opens and has missed only one since 1994 (the 2017 edition in order to attend his daughter’s high-school graduation). He’s finished runner-up a record six times, too, including most recently in 2013 at Merion.
Mickelson was in danger of not qualifying last year at Winged Foot, but the USGA adjusted its qualification because of the pandemic and Mickelson earned his way into the rescheduled September championship after all.
However, two Februarys ago, Mickelson said he wouldn’t accept a special invite from the USGA, which has historically given out special exemptions to the game’s top players, including Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Ernie Els was the most recent player to get such invite, in 2019.
“I won’t accept it,” Mickelson 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. They have never been an organization that likes to give out exemptions, special exemptions. I don’t want a special exemption. 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’m good enough to make it and qualify, then I need to earn my spot there.”
Mickelson, likely being vague because the USGA has yet to formally extend any type of invitations, added that his decision won’t be influenced by this year’s U.S. Open being a home game.
“The venue doesn’t make a difference,” he said. “I just don’t know the answer yet.”