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Phil Mickelson and Titleist end contract

Masters champion Phil Mickelson has been released from his five-year contract with Titleist and is free to sign with another equipment company, Golfweek magazine reported.

Mickelson still had 16 months left on his contract, which was worth more than $4 million a year.

The decision comes at a time when Mickelson is at the top of his game. He broke through at Augusta National to win his first major, then came within a combined five shots of winning the other three majors.

Golfweek cited unidentified sources as saying Mickelson and his agent, Steve Loy of Gaylord Sports Management, asked Titleist to renegotiate the deal after Mickelson won the Masters. But Titleist refused, and discussions followed that enabled Mickelson to get out of the deal.

Titleist chief executive Wally Uihlein was traveling Thursday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

Loy was out of the office, and his secretary said there would be no comment.

The decision by Titleist not to renew a deal with one of the most popular players in golf is not surprising because the company, owned by Acushnet, has always put its brand ahead of any one player. Titleist also let Tiger Woods out of his contract when the world's No. 1 player moved toward using Nike Golf's ball and eventually its clubs.

While Mickelson was an unabashed pitchman for Titleist, his relationship became strained last year when he tried out as a pitcher for the Toledo Mud Hens toward the end of his worst season on the PGA Tour.

He also infuriated Uihlein by leaving a voice mail for a Callaway representative to thank him for helping Mickelson's brother out with some equipment. Mickelson praised Callaway for its new golf ball and driver, and Callaway officials were said to have played the voice mail for its salesman at a national meeting.

Mickelson is expected to play next week at the Canadian Open.

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