Martin Dempster: would Phil Mickelson be welcome at St Andrews for 150th Open?

It might not be on his radar right now, having confessed he needs some “time away” from the game, but the question can still be asked: would Phil Mickelson be made welcome at St Andrews for the 150th Open in July?

As things stand, the answer to that would probably be a resounding ‘no’ because, let’s face it, big Phil wasn’t exactly the most popular man in Scotland long before he left his career in tatters over comments about the PGA Tour and the Saudi Super League.

Make no mistake, Mickelson will NEVER be forgiven by some people in this country for throwing Tom Watson, the US captain, under the bus in the immediate aftermath of the visitors suffering a heavy loss in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

His public slaughtering of a man revered in Scotland, where he won four his five Opens, was simply unacceptable for many and not just golf fans. It was out of order and Mickelson did huge damage to himself that day.

Phil Mickelson holds the Claret Jug after winning the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

Until then, he’d actually been a pretty popular figure in the home of golf, having been by far the biggest supporter of the Scottish Open among the Americans as he made 14 appearances in that event between 2000 and 2018.

He was a very popular winner indeed at Castle Stuart in 2013 and he’d probably been offered the freedom of Scotland at the time when he became Open champion for the first time seven days later at Muirfield.

His closing five-under 66 in East Lothian was a memorable effort and, despite his popularity having been damaged from that Ryder Cup on Scottish soil the following year, he still had lots of people willing him on in a titanic tussle eventually won by Henrik Stenson at Troon in 2016.

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Phil Mickelson apologises for 'reckless' comments over Saudi Super League

As a former winner, the R&A will definitely be keen to see Mickelson in the line up for this summer’s milestone staging of the game’s oldest major, but lots of questions need to be answered before we see if that actually happens.

In his statement issued on Tuesday night, the six-time major winner talked about feeling “pressure” over the past 10 years and “stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level”.

If he is indeed struggling with mental health, then he should be allowed that time he needs to “prioritise the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be”.

But, at the same time, he simply has to come clean about why he’s raging what is effectively now a one-man war against the PGA Tour.

Not one mention was made of it in his statement, yet he went out of his way in trying to repair the damage he’d done with the Saudis by referring to LIV Golf Investments, which, through Greg Norman, is trying to set up the Super League.

In his big chance to repair the real damage he’d caused, Mickelson failed miserably and, even here in Scotland, it now seems unlikely that he will be able to hold his head high ever again.

“So terribly sad, so desperately unnecessary, so stupid,” wrote Ewen Murray, the Sky Sports Golf commentator, in a post on social media, expressing sentiments that are being shared by so many about a man who was once loved for his magic.

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