By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) - Phil Mickelson will get another shot to complete the career Grand Slam thanks to an adjusted exemption criteria for this year's U.S. Open that was announced by the United States Golf Association (USGA) on Thursday.
Mickelson, a runner-up at the U.S. Open a record six times, was in danger of missing the Sept. 17-20 tournament at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York but made it into the field as the COVID-19 outbreak led to a change in the exemption categories.
Among the changes announced by the USGA, which eliminated all qualifying for the event, were to include the top 70 players in the world ranking as of March 15 - when the PGA Tour went into three-month a COVID-19 hiatus - instead of the usual 60.
Mickelson was 61st at the time.
The U.S. Open is the lone major Mickelson has never won. In 2006 at Winged Foot he famously held a one-shot lead entering the final hole but carded a double-bogey and lost by one shot to Geoff Ogilvy.
Mickelson said earlier in the year he would not accept a special invitation to compete in the U.S. Open, and that he was confident he could earn his way into the tournament.
"I won't accept it," Mickelson said in February at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. "So I am either going to get in the field on my own or I'll have to try to qualify. I'm not going to take a special exemption."
But Mickelson, who turned 50 last week, is on the verge of battling a lost cause as nobody has won the U.S. Open at such an advanced age, with American Hale Irwin becoming the oldest champion at 45 in 1990.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)