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Phil Mickelson returns to Travelers Championship

He’s won five major championships. His swing tips helped Tom Brady briefly cure a case of the shanks. And now Phil Mickelson is back to try to tame TPC River Highlands once again.

Mickelson, the legendary lefty whose 44 wins rank ninth on the PGA Tour’s all-time list, lent his name to the Travelers Championship’s loaded field on Thursday, two days after celebrating his 50th birthday. He won back-to-back Canon Greater Hartford Open titles in 2001-02 but hadn’t played in Cromwell in 16 years before missing the cut in his return last year.

“Phil is one of the most popular and decorated players in golf history and having him in our field definitely adds a layer of excitement,” said tournament director Nathan Grube. “Everything that Phil has brought to the game is spectacular. We’re getting an elite player with Phil’s commitment.”

Mickelson was among the tour pros who returned to work last week at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, where he finished two strokes below the cutline to miss out on the weekend. In May he teamed with Brady against Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning in a captivating charity match that raised over $20 million for COVID-19 relief and saw the rival quarterbacks hold their own on Woods’ challenging home course during a severe rainstorm.

After falling behind early, the team of Mickelson and Brady — known for authoring their share of comebacks in their respective arenas — made it interesting on the back nine before Woods and Manning delivered a 1-up victory. While he’s not one of the most highly ranked players in a star-studded Travelers lineup, Mickelson is easily its most accomplished. And his peers, many of whom grew up idolizing him, have enjoyed watching him flash a goofy side in recent years, dancing in commercials and bragging about hitting “bombs” and “hellacious seeds” off the tee.

“With the top seven players in the Official World Golf Ranking and eight of the top 10, it already feels like the best player field we’ve ever had, and now we’re adding to it with Phil Mickelson,” said Andy Bessette, the Travelers’ executive vice president and chief administrative officer. “This is great news for the Travelers Championship. We appreciate that he has fit Travelers into his schedule, and I know that millions of Phil’s fans will be rooting for him while watching from home.”

With this year’s Travelers relegated to a TV-only event amid the coronavirus pandemic, fans will get to see the likes of Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas beginning on Thursday, June 25, with three hours of coverage on the Golf Channel. The network will also air coverage of Friday’s action and more on the weekend before ceding primary coverage to CBS for the final two rounds.

Landing a commitment from Woods, who’s offered very few specifics about his schedule now that the tour has resumed play, would truly be the pièce de résistance for Grube and Bessette. Experts have come out on opposite ends of the spectrum in trying to predict his next move, but there’s no need to guess beyond 5 p.m. Friday, the deadline for entering the Travelers.

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