Phil Mickelson has declared he won't relinquish his PGA Tour membership as he prepares to headline the opening event of Greg Norman's breakaway LIV Golf Invitational Series.
Mickelson, speaking publicly for the first time since the end of his self-imposed four-month exile, said on Wednesday he'd earned his lifetime membership of the PGA Tour and didn't plan to give it up.
Fellow U.S. stars Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na have both resigned from the Tour to play the new, lucrative Saudi-backed series being fronted by Norman.
Speaking on the eve of the launch event at the Centurion course north of London, Mickelson also revealed he will still play next week's U.S. Open at Brookline.
At a testing news conference for the six-time major champion, an unshaven and often discomfited Mickelson was grilled about Saudi "'sportswashing", asserting several times he didn't condone human rights violations.
And following his previous derogatory comments about the Saudis being "scary m***********s", after which he took a long break from the sport, he apologised for "saying and doing a lot of things I regret and for the hurt it's caused a lot of people."
Mickelson, the star signing for Norman's new circuit, was pressed for 25 minutes about his recent exile, saying he'd had "an awesome time".
RIGHT: Without any sponsors on his clothing or golf bag, Mickelson took his first swings in public during Wednesday's pro-am at Centurion. PHOTO: Aitor Alcalde/LIV Golf/Getty Images.
He said he'd had the option to defend his PGA Championship title but "wasn't able and ready to compete."
Of his decision to stick with the PGA Tour, Mickelson said: "I worked really hard to gain a lifetime exemption. I don't want to give that up and I don't believe I should have to."
The 51-year-old found himself in the firing line, with one questioner asking him what he was apologising for – "speaking the truth about the Saudis or for the shameless hypocrisy of taking their money anyway?"
To which he responded cautiously: "I understand that many people have strong opinions and may disagree with my decision and I can empathise with that.
"But at this time, this is an opportunity that gives me a chance to give me the most balance in my life going forward."
He opened up by saying: "I don't condone human rights violations at all. I'm certainly aware of what has happened with Jamal Khashoggi and think it's terrible.
"I have also seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history and I believe LIV Golf is going to do a lot of good for the game as well."
He wouldn't comment on whether he'd been suspended by the PGA Tour, nor would he confirm whether reports he was receiving $US200 million ($A278m) to compete in the LIV events were accurate.
"I understand that many people have strong opinions and may disagree with my decision and I can empathise with that. But at this time, this is an opportunity that gives me a chance to give me the most balance in my life going forward." - Phil Mickelson.
Of his sabbatical, he said: "I've had an awesome time, a four-month break from the game that I haven't had in over three decades.
"I've had an opportunity to spend some time with my wife Amy and travel parts of the world and spend time at a place we have in Montana skiing and hiking.
"I went to a couple of my nephew's little league games which I haven't done before.
"Every day of the Masters, I skied in the morning and watched it afterwards.
"I found myself missing the Masters, but not wanting to be there."