After all, Phil Mickelson doesn’t have to qualify for the US Open.
Five-time main champion, who grew up in the San Diego area near where this year’s championship will take place, Torrey Pines, accepted a United States Golf Association special exemption for next month’s 121st US Open on Friday.
It will be the 30th US Open of Mickelson’s career, a tournament he never won but came in second six times.
Mickelson, 50, said last year that he would not accept an invitation to the 2020 championship but was given leave to attend the tournament at Winged Foot, where he doubled the final hole in 2006 to miss a playoff by one stroke. Mickelson missed the cut last year.
When asked about the possibility of a special exemption through ESPN two weeks ago, Mickelson said he didn’t know if he would accept it and said that gambling in his hometown was not part of the decision. He said at the time that if he hadn’t made it into the field by then, he would enter the 36-hole qualification in Columbus, Ohio on June 7th.
Players not otherwise exempted can earn a spot in the field by being in the top 60 in the world on May 24th or June 7th. The US Open will be played June 17-20.
Mickelson ranks 116th in the world. He was the top runner in the first round at the Wells Fargo Championship last week after shooting 64, followed by 75-76-76, and dropped to 69th place. With 10 events in 2021, his best result is a tie for 21st place at the Masters.
Mickelson finished second at the US Open in 1999 at Payne Stewart in Pinehurst, 2002 at Tiger Woods in Bethpage, 2004 at Retief Goosen in Shinnecock Hills, 2006 with Geoff Ogilvy at Winged Foot, 2009 with Lucas Glover at Bethpage and 2013 with Justin Rose with Merion .
This is the second best place for a player who has never won the tournament. The only major is preventing Mickelson from finishing a career grand slam. He has four other top 10s at the US Open.
Mickelson played his first US Open as an amateur in 1990 and played 23 times in a row from 1994 to 2016, missing the tournament in 2017 due to his daughter’s graduation.
The USGA has now granted a total of 53 special exemptions to 35 players from 1966 when they gave their first to Ben Hogan.
Jack Nicklaus, a four-time winner of the US Open, got eight and played his last in 2000 at the age of 60. Arnold Palmer got five and he played his last US Open in 1994 at the age of 64. Ernie Els received a special exemption in 2019. The last player not to win the US Open for a special exemption was Vijay Singh in 2010.