By Christopher Powers
By Jared C. Tilton
Just two weeks after saying he was unsure if he'd accept a special exemption into the U.S. Open, the USGA announced on Friday that Phil Mickelson did accept its special exemption into the 121st U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
Mickelson, who now is 116th in the Official World Golf Ranking following his 69th-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship, was scheduled to go through final qualifying the day after the Memorial Tournament on June 7. The other way to qualify would have required Mickelson to vault into the top 60 in the OWGR before that June 7 date, a seemingly uphill battle for the five-time major champion given the current state of his game.
Now, Lefty will have to worry about neither final qualifying nor earning a spot via strong results in the PGA Championship, Charles Schwab Challenge and the Memorial Tournament. On Friday, he became the 56th player to accept a special exemption into our nation's open, which will be held this June at Torrey Pines in Mickelson's hometown of San Diego.
“Winning the U.S. Open has been a lifelong and elusive dream, and I’ve come close so many times,” said Mickelson, who is still in search of a U.S. Open win to complete the career grand slam. “You can’t win if you don’t play. I’m honoured and appreciative of the USGA for the opportunity and look forward to playing in my hometown on a golf course I grew up on.”
Should Mickelson win, he'd become just the second player in U.S. Open history to do so on a special exemption. The only player who has accomplished that feat was Hale Irwin in 1990 at Medinah.
"Phil Mickelson’s incredible USGA playing record and overall career achievements are among the most noteworthy in the game’s history,” said USGA CEO Mike Davis. "We are thrilled to welcome him to this year’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines."
This will mark Mickelson's 30th appearance in a U.S. Open, an event he's amassed six runner-up finishes in through the years. The last time it was held at Torrey Pines in 2008, the 50-year-old tied for 18th. He's had plenty of success at his hometown course in non-majors, too, winning the Farmers Insurance Open three times (1993, 2000, 2001) and finishing runner-up in 2011. Since finishing T-2 at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, Mickelson has struggled in the event, failing to post a finish better than T-28 in his last six tries.