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Phil Mickelson is enjoying his time away from the golf course and the spotlight, at least according to his mother, Mary Mickelson.
Mary Mickelson told USA Today ahead of the first round of the PGA Championship that the six-time major champion was almost unrecognizable, adding that it was “fun” to be around him in public.
“I didn’t recognize him at first,” Mary said of her son’s new facial hair. “He had a bit of a beard and mustache. I don’t remember him doing that before. Not many people recognize him, so it was fun to be able to hang out with him.”
Phil Mickelson hasn’t played in a golf tournament since February. His comments about the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi shocked the golfing world, and he’s withdrawn from every major and skipped every tournament since.
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However, Mary Mickelson said her son was more relaxed than ever and his facial hair provided him with a disguise to go out and watch his niece and nephew compete in sporting events.
“He’s relaxed, he laughs all the time,” she told USA Today. “He’s not on the phone with people calling him for this or that, and please play in this tournament. And it’s hard when you have to say no, when you don’t have the time to move on. But it took a lot of time with our family.
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“Tim and Tina, his brother and sister, also mentioned it. How happy he looks. How relaxed and at ease he is. And if that means going through all of this…I’m happy for him .”
Mary Mickelson said she and Phil didn’t talk golf, but chipped and putted in the garden. She doesn’t know what the future holds for her.
Phil Mickelson became the oldest professional golfer to win a major at 50 last year at the PGA Championship, but pulled out before this year’s tournament without giving a reason.
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He has been linked with Saudi-backed LIV Golf, which is due to start next month in London.
He sparked some controversy when his remarks about Saudi Arabia were published in an interview with author Alan Shipnuck, whose book, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar” should be out this month. Shipnuck posted a story based on a phone interview on “The Firepit Collective” website.
“They are scary mothers to get involved with,” Mickelson reportedly said. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible human rights record. They execute people there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a unique opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour works.
“They were able to get by with manipulative, coercive and heavy-handed tactics because we players had no recourse. A guy as nice as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] seems like, unless you have leverage, it won’t do the right thing. And Saudi money finally gave us that leverage. I’m not even sure I want [the Saudi golf league] succeed, but just having the idea allows us to move things forward with [PGA] To visit.”
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Mickelson later apologized saying, “I am beyond disappointed and will do my best to reflect and learn from this.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.