ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Phil Mickelson said he respects Tiger Woods’ opinion of LIV Golf after the 15-time major champion said those who joined the Breakaway series “have turned their backs on what made them made it possible to reach this position”.
Mickelson carded an even par in his first round at The Open in St Andrews on Thursday. While it is the 150th edition of the famous championship, the hot topic this week has been the ongoing bickering between the various interest groups over LIV Golf and the Golfers who defected to the new series.
When asked about LIV Golf on Tuesday, Woods said: “I don’t agree with that. I think they have turned their backs on what allowed them to achieve this position.”
“I definitely respect his opinion,” Mickelson said on Thursday. “I have great respect for him. I respect his opinion. I think everyone will have strong emotions and opinions on this and I certainly respect theirs.”
Mickelson did not attend the 150th Open celebrations earlier in the week, including Monday’s champions’ celebrations and Tuesday’s champions’ dinner. Previous winners of The Open have been invited and despite winning the 2013 Open at Muirfield, Mickelson was a notable absence.
“The R&A contacted me a few weeks ago and said, ‘Look, we don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go [to the celebrations], but if you want, you can,'” Mickelson said. “I just didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so I said fine. We both agreed that it would be best if I didn’t.”
Mickelson also missed the champions dinners at the Masters and the PGA Championship.
Despite behind-the-scenes disagreements over the future of the sport following the launch of LIV Golf, Mickelson said he “couldn’t be happier” with his decision to compete in the new series, funded by Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund.
“I made the right decision for me,” said Mickelson. “And like I said, I’m excited to have the opportunity to play competitive golf and have it in a more moderate setting in my life where I can do some things outside of that as well. I freed up many others — saved a lot of time too.
“I couldn’t be happier. I think it was really good. I can’t wait to get to New Jersey and play another event there. The player experience, the experience of these events from a player perspective is a 10. You can’t understand it any better. You see, it’s not my job to explain it to you or help you understand it or whatever. It’s just that I couldn’t be happier.
While Mickelson received a respectful reaction from the crowd at St Andrews, Ian Poulter – who also stars in the LIV series – was booed on the first tee by a handful of spectators. He carded a 3-under 69 on Thursday and said he “didn’t hear any” when asked about the booing.
“To be honest I thought I had a great reception on the first tee,” said Poulter. “All I heard was clapping.”
The Ryder Cup veteran also said he had not read any comments from R&A this week after CEO Martin Slumbers criticized LIV Golf on Wednesday. But Poulter said he hopes the differences between the various interest groups can be resolved.
“I would hope so, but there are obviously smarter people than me at the top of the tree,” Poulter said. “I left school when I was 15. I would have thought that smart people could figure that out – clearly not.”
Poulter also said he experienced no animosity from his fellow pros, despite opposition from the LIV series from top-flight golfers like Woods and Rory McIlroy.
“I’ve heard great comments and great conversations from everyone,” Poulter said. “We may have a disagreement, but they are my friends. You’ve been golfing with these guys for over 20 years or 10, 15 years, you’ve been on a lot of teams with them.
“Even if they have differences of opinion, that’s it. We all have opinions, don’t we? We’re still friends no matter what landscape and where you play golf.”