Mickelson, a three-time winner at Augusta National, is taking a break from the game after sounding off about both the PGA Tour and a Saudi-backed breakaway circuit being fronted by Greg Norman.
Speaking after joining Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson for the Honorary Starting Ceremony in Georgia, Player said: “I think we live in a time now when we are such a judgmental society, a litigious society, a critical society, where people get crucified.
“The greatest PR man on the golf tour in the last five or X amount of years has been Phil Mickelson.
“He has been the ideal man for a sponsor, for professional golf, for the public, the way he's handled the public, with dignity and with love.
“And he makes a mistake. We all have. And he said he's sorry. I said, ‘hold your head up high. You've made a mistake’. From the epitome of perfection, he's down there being crucified. It's not right. I think it’s pitiful”
Watson, a two-time Masters champion, is the 11th Honorary Starter in a tradition that was inaugurated in 1963 by Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod.
“I was overjoyed and actually humbled because the way I look at these old goats right here, I can't carry their shoes,” said Watson of Nicklaus and Player. “I don't kind of belong in the same realm as these two players here.”