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Mickelson opted out of Masters, Augusta National chairman says
Three-time champion Phil Mickelson, embroiled in controversy over his comments on a Saudi-backed rival league to the PGA Tour, opted not to play in the 86th Masters, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday.
"I would like to say we did not disinvite Phil," Ridley said in answer to a question at his pre-tournament press conference.
"Phil is a three-time Masters Champion and is invited in that category and many other categories -- he's the defending PGA Champion."
Mickelson won last year's PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, becoming the oldest major winner in golf history at age 50.
Mickelson said in February he would take some "desperately" needed time away from golf after a firestorm erupted over his comments to author Alan Shipnuck on the group being spearheaded by Australian Greg Norman.
Mickelson called the Saudi financial backers of the proposed league "scary" with a "horrible record on human rights" but said he was willing to deal with them in order to gain leverage to "reshape" the US PGA Tour.
"Phil has been a real fixture here at the Masters for many years. He has been a big part of our history," Ridley said. "We certainly wish him the best working through the issues he's dealing with right now."
When it came to the subject of a PGA rival league, and possibly banning players who joined it, Ridley said he needed more information but was supportive of the status quo.
"Our mission is always to act in the best interests of the game in whatever form that may take," Ridley said. "I think that golf is in a good place right now.
"There's more participation. Purses on the professional tours are the highest they have ever been. Clubs and courses I think are in healthy financial positions.
"We've been pretty clear in our belief that the world tours have done a great job in promoting the game over the years.
"Beyond that, there's so much that we don't know about what might happen or could happen that I just don't think I could say much more."
- Phil has 'gone dark' -
Bryson DeChambeau, a friend of Mickelson, said this week the six-time major winner had "gone dark" and not responded when DeChambeau reached out to him in recent weeks.
Ridley said that Mickelson had texted him to let him know that he wouldn't tee it up at the Masters, where former champions have a lifetime invitation.
"Phil reached out to me, I think it was in late February, early March, and let me know that he did not intend to play," Ridley said. "That was by way of a text.
"And I thanked him for his courtesy in letting me know. I told him that we certainly appreciated that and, you know, told him that I was certainly willing to discuss that further with him if he'd like, and he thanked me, and we had a very cordial exchange."
Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy, who was among those critical of Mickelson's comments and skeptical of the rival league plan, said in March that PGA Tour players wanted to see the 51-year-old Mickelson back on the course.
"We all make mistakes. We all say things we want to take back," McIlroy said when discussing Mickelson at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month.
"Hopefully he comes back (to the US PGA Tour) at some stage and he will. And people will welcome him back and be glad that he is back."