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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 the six-time major champion has been almost unrecognizable, adding it’s been “fun” to be around him in public.
“I didn’t recognize him at first,” Mary told the outlet of her son’s new facial hair. “He had a little bit of a beard and mustache. I don’t ever remember him doing that before. Not too many people recognize him, so it’s been fun to be able to go out with him.”
Phil Mickelson hasn’t appeared 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 roiled the golf world, and he’s opted out of each major and skipped each tournament ever since.
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However, Mary Mickelson said her son is as relaxed as ever, and his facial hair has provided him 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 that are calling him for this and 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 spend. But he has taken a lot of time with our family.
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“Tim and Tina, his brother and sister, have mentioned that too. How happy he seems. How relaxed and comfortable. And if it means going through all of this … I’m happy for him.”
Mary Mickelson said Phil and her don’t talk about golf but are chipping and putting in the backyard. She’s unsure of what the future holds for him.
Phil Mickelson became the oldest pro golfer to win a major at age 50 last year at the PGA Championship but withdrew ahead of this year’s tournament without giving a reason.
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He’s been linked to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf, which is set to begin 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” is scheduled for a release this month. Shipnuck posted a story based on a phone interview on “The Firepit Collective” website.
“They’re scary mother——s to get involved with,” Mickelson reportedly said. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.
“They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the Saudi golf league] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.”
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Mickelson later apologized, saying, “I’m beyond disappointed and will make every effort to self-reflect and learn from this.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.