Phil Mickelson said Monday he hopes to play PGA Tour events again in future despite being banned from the circuit after joining the lucrative Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
Speaking in Brookline ahead of this week's US Open, where the six-time major champion will be playing his first tournament on US soil in four months, Mickelson said he had earned the right to his lifetime membership of the PGA Tour and should be free to play its tournaments.
The 51-year-old US star is one of the biggest names to sign for LIV Golf, the upstart series which made its debut in Britain last week and has plunged golf into civil war.
Mickelson is among 17 players who were hit with indefinite suspensions by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan last week for their participation in LIV Golf.
However Mickelson said on Monday he believed he should be free to play in events of his choosing, insisting he had contributed to the success of the PGA Tour during more than 30 years as a professional.
"I am very appreciative of the many memories, opportunities, experiences, friendships, relationships PGA Tour has provided, and those are going to last -- those will last a lifetime, but I'm hopeful that I'll have a chance to create more," Mickelson said.
"I've worked hard to earn a lifetime membership. I've worked hard to give back to the PGA Tour and the game of golf throughout my 30-plus years of professional golf, and I've earned that lifetime membership, so I believe that it should be my choice.
"My preference is to be able to choose which path I would like, one or the other or both."
- 'Don't know how this will play out' -
Mickelson would not be drawn however when asked about plans for his future schedule beyond LIV events and next month's British Open.
"It's been pretty public that I'm suspended along with a bunch of other players, so it would be only speculative going forward," Mickelson said.
"I am going to play the LIV events. I am going to play the British Open, but anything other than that would be pure speculation. I don't know how this is all going to play out."
Critics of LIV Golf say the circuit is being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia as part of an effort to 'sportswash' its reputation amid criticism of the kingdom's human rights record.
Families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington joined the chorus of criticism last week, accusing golfers joining LIV of betraying the memories of their loved ones. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens.
Asked about the 9/11 families' criticism on Sunday, PGA Tour chief Monahan said no player ever had to apologise for being a member of the PGA Tour.
Responding to that remark on Monday, Mickelson said he had not always seen eye-to-eye with the PGA Tour.
"There's a lot of things throughout the years that the PGA Tour has done that I agree with, and there's a lot of things that I don't agree with, and yet I've supported them either way," Mickelson said.
Mickelson triggered uproar in February after the publication of remarks made to golf writer Alan Shipnuck in which he described the Saudi backers of LIV Golf as "scary" with a "horrible record on human rights".
However he said he was enthusiastic about the new series as it presented an opportunity to pressure the PGA Tour to reform itself.