Phil Mickelson will begin his quest for a second US PGA title at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course on Thursday knowing he already has access to the US Open – the third major of the year – at Torrey Pines in his home city of San Diego next month (17-20 June).
At the age of 50, the five-times major champion has dropped to 116th in the world and was facing having to qualify for the tournament after the Memorial on 7 June, but the United States Golf Association has decided to honour Mickelson's body of work that has seen him finish US Open runner-up a record six times.
Lefty’s life lesson: What inspired Phil Mickelson’s greatest triumph?
The 44-times PGA Tour winner becomes the 56th player to accept a special exemption for the US Open and should be the ideal boost as the former world number two attempts to challenge for a second US PGA title following his 2005 victory at Baltusrol.
Lefty continues to harbour lofty ambitions as he bids to become only the sixth man to complete a career grand slam alongside Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.
Winning the US Open has been a lifelong and elusive dream, and I’ve come close so many times.
“You can’t win if you don’t play," said Mickelson. "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.”
Lefty's fellow American Hale Irwin remains the only player to lift the US Open on an exemption having edged out Mike Donald in sudden death after an 18-hole play-off at Medinah in 1990, the year of Mickelson's first appearance as an amateur.
"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 US Open at Torrey Pines."
Mickelson tied for 18th in the 2008 US Open – scene of Tiger Woods' famous 14th major victory after his play-off win over Rocco Mediate – but has enjoyed notable success on the track having won the Farmers Insurance Open three times in 1993, 2000 and 2001 while finishing runner-up in 2011.
The remarkable Mickelson has enjoyed an overall haul of 10 top-10 finishes at the US Open and tied for second behind Justin Rose at Merion in 2013, but has not finished better than a tie for 28th place in his past six attempts.
He produced some of his old magic to lead after the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship with a seven-under 64 at Quail Hollow earlier this month, but rounds of 75, 76 and 76 saw him slump to plus seven and 69th place as inconsistency blighted his aspirations.
"I’ve failed many times in my life and career and because of this I’ve learned a lot," he said.
Instead of feeling defeated countless times, I’ve used it as fuel to drive me to work harder. So today, join me in accepting our failures. Let’s use them to motivate us to work even harder.
Mickelson's major success story
- US Masters – Won: 2004, 2006, 2010
- US PGA – Won: 2005
- US Open – Second/tied second: 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2013
- The Open Championship – Won: 2013
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