Phil Mickelson, the defending winner of the PGA Championship, has decided not to compete this year, the PGA of America stated on Friday. Mickelson hasn’t competed since contentious remarks he made about the LIV Golf series, which is sponsored by Saudi Arabia, were made public.
The American left-hander, who is 51 years old and won his sixth major championship in his career last year, became the oldest major winner in the history of golf when he won the PGA Cup at Kiawah Island.
However, he has not competed in a tournament since January, when his comments to author Alan Shipnuck endorsing the Saudi-backed alternative to the US PGA Tour were made public. Since then, he has not played.
Mickelson, who has won 45 times on the US PGA Tour, did not compete in the Masters tournament that took place a month ago for the first time since 1994. He is also skipping the PGA Championship for the first time since he made his professional debut in 1993.
It marks the first time since 1993 that Mickelson has gone a whole year without competing in either the United States Open or the British Open.
If Mickelson had played at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he would have been confronted with concerns over his involvement with a Saudi organisation that he has referred to as “dangerous” and having a “terrible record on human rights.”
Mickelson claimed that in order to acquire control over the US PGA Tour, he was ready to turn the other way on situations such as the murder of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA of America) issued a statement in which it claimed, “We have just been told that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship.”
“Phil is the reigning champion and is now eligible to become a PGA Life Member; had he been interested in competing, we would have welcomed him with open arms.
“We hope that everything works out for Phil and Amy, and we eagerly anticipate his return to golf.”
Even though sponsors dropped him and he began a break saying he would “desperately need some time away,” Mickelson issued an apology after his comments were made public and said his experience with LIV Golf was “very positive.” He also called those he worked with “supportive” and “visionaries.” Mickelson is currently ranked 58th in the world.
It is still unknown when or if Mickelson will compete in PGA competitions again.
The LIV Golf series, which will begin in London the month after next, has planned eight competitions for this year, including four at locations in the United States; however, the identities of the participants have not been made public.
The United States PGA Circuit said earlier this week that it has denied all requests by tour players to compete in the LIV London tournament, which is scheduled to take place concurrently with the Canadian Open hosted by the US PGA.
Mickelson, who issued an apology back in February and received backing from other players after doing so, is at the heart of the debate.
Jon Rahm of Spain, the current holder of the title for the US Open, had this to say about Mickelson: “I don’t believe his whole career or his legacy should alter because of a handful statements.”
Even if he has turned down an offer to play on the LIV Golf circuit as Rahm has, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy has shown his support for Phil Mickelson.
“There will be a revival of Phil. I get the impression that the players are looking forward to his return. He has been of tremendous assistance to the sport of golf throughout his career.
“It should be okay for us to apologise and for other people to forgive us so that we may go on with our lives. It is my hope that people would be happy to see him again and give him a warm welcome.”
Other players, sick of concerns about the newcomer organisation, sent a message with more conviction to those who support the LIV Golf series.
Justin Thomas, who won the PGA Championship in 2017, encouraged his fellow competitors, “If you want to go, go.” “There have been a lot of men working behind the scenes who have said things like “I’m going, I’m doing this.” Just get out of here.”