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Golf legend Gary Player claimed Phil Mickelson deserves forgiveness for his recent antics – and branded the sport’s treatment of him “pitiful”.

Mickelson is taking a break from the game following a series of incidents relating to the Saudi-backed breakaway league, the LIV Invitational Series.

He was widely criticised for comments accusing the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed”, before quotes emerged where he admitted using the new venture for “leverage”.

However, nine-time major winner Player insisted Mickelson deserves another chance.

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“I think we live in a time now when we are such a judgmental society, a litigious society, a critical society, where people get crucified,” he said after hitting the opening tee shot at the Masters.

“The greatest PR man on the golf tour in the last five or X amount of years has been Phil Mickelson. He has been the ideal man for a sponsor, for professional golf, for the public, the way he’s handled the public, with dignity and with love.

“And he makes a mistake, which every one of you in this room have made a damn mistake. We all have. And he’s said he’s sorry. Even the Lord God will forgive you of your inequities if you ask for forgiveness.

“I said, ‘Hold your head up high. You’ve made a mistake. Everybody makes a mistake’.”

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“He should go on with his life,” Player continued.

“I think it’s pitiful. If there’s nobody that hasn’t made a mistake, I’d like to invite anybody in the world to have lunch with me at Augusta, and if you haven’t made a mistake I’ll have lunch with you, but I’ll have lunch on my own.

“It’s amazing. From the epitome of perfection, he’s down there being crucified. It’s not right.”

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