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Phil Mickelson accepts special exemption into U.S. Open at Torrey Pines

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson is officially playing his hometown U.S. Open.

The USGA announced Friday that it had extended a special exemption to Phil Mickelson for the June 17-20 championship at Torrey Pines in Mickelson’s native San Diego, and that Mickelson had accepted the invite.

“Winning the U.S. Open has been a lifelong and elusive dream, and I’ve come close so many times,” said Mickelson, who has finished runner-up at the U.S. Open a record six times without winning. “You can’t win if you don’t play. I’m honored and appreciative of the USGA for the opportunity and look forward to playing in my hometown on a golf course I grew up on.”

The 50-year-old Mickelson had recently said he was unsure if he’d accept such an exemption. Prior to receiving the invite, Mickelson, who is now No. 113 in the Official World Golf Ranking, would’ve needed to crack the top 60 in the world by either May 24 or June 7, or sectional qualify (he was entered into one of two qualifiers next month in Ohio).

Mickelson 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). His most recent runner-up finish came in 2013 at Merion.

Mickelson is the fifth different player since 2010 to receive a special exemption into the U.S. Open, joining Tom Watson (2010), Vijay Singh (2010), Retief Goosen (2016), Jim Furyk (2018), and Ernie Els (2018, 2019). Hale Irwin is the only player to win the U.S. Open while playing on a special exemption, doing so in a 19-hole playoff over Mike Donald in 1990 at Medinah Country Club to claim his third U.S. Open title.

Two years ago, before the USGA adjusted its exemption criteria for the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot because of the pandemic, Mickelson had been adamant that he would’ve accept a special exemption. And recently, he also expressed that this year’s venue wouldn’t make a difference in his decision.

“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.”

Now, he’s changed his mind.