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Phil Mickelson gets another shot at career Grand Slam

Phil Mickelson at 2020 U.S. Open
Phil Mickelson accepts a USGA exemption into the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, his hometown.

Mickelson accepts special exemption from USGA to U.S. Open, the missing piece to a career Grand Slam, to be held in his hometown

Two weeks after Phil Mickelson said he wasn’t sure whether he would accept a special exemption, should it be offered, to the U.S. Open, he has given his answer.

Yes, he will play.

Mickelson will not have to go through qualifying for the U.S. Open, to be played June 17-20 at Torrey Pines in San Diego, his hometown. At No. 116 in the world ranking, he was scheduled to play a 36-hole sectional qualifier on June 7, the Monday after the Memorial, in Columbus, Ohio. Instead, he landed an invitation from the USGA.

“Phil Mickelson’s incredible USGA playing record and overall career achievements are among the most noteworthy in the game’s history,” USGA CEO Mike Davis, who is retiring this summer, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to welcome him to this year’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.”

Mickelson, who will turn 51 on the Wednesday of U.S. Open week, has won 44 times on the PGA Tour, ranking ninth all-time. He owns five major-championship victories: three Masters, a PGA and a British Open. He lacks only the U.S. Open, in which he has finished runner-up a record six times in 29 appearances, to complete the career Grand Slam. Only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won all four of golf’s top prizes.

“Winning the U.S. Open has been a lifelong and elusive dream, and I’ve come close so many times,” Mickelson said in a statement. “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.”

Mickelson is the sixth 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). Other top players to have received exemptions over the years include Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

Before the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Mickelson was in danger of not qualifying yet remained adamant that he would not accept a special invitation.

“I won't accept it,” Mickelson said in February 2020. “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.”

Ultimately, because of COVID-19’s effect on the 2020 tournament schedule and the cancellation of all qualifying into the 2020 U.S. Open, the USGA expanded its qualifications for the Open. Mickelson earned his way into the postponed tournament in September, though he missed the cut.

Hale Irwin is the lone player to win the U.S. Open playing on a special exemption. He won in 1990 at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club, defeating Mike Donald in a 19-hole playoff, to claim his third U.S. Open title.

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