Phil Mickelson withdrew from the PGA Championship on Friday, opting to extend his golf hiatusabout a Saudi-funded rival league he supports and the PGA Tour that he accused of being greedy.
Mickelson authorlast year when he won the PGA at Kiawah Island, at age 50 the oldest champion in 161 years of the majors.
Now, the popular phrase from ten years ago – “What’s Phil going to do now?” – contains more intrigue than pure excitement.
The PGA of America announced its decision on social media. The PGA Championship kicks off Thursday at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Mickelson has not played at the Saudi International since Feb. 6, where he accused the PGA Tour of “unpleasant greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
Two weeks later, in an excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s unauthorized biography to be released next week, Mickelson revealed how he had been working behind the scenes to promote the rival league, funded by the Public Investment Fund and run by†
Mickelson denounced Saudi Arabia’s human rights atrocities, including theJamal Khashoggi, saying it was worth it if it meant getting leverage to get the changes he wanted on the PGA Tour.
Mickelson met the deadline to sign up for the PGA Championship on April 25, although his manager said it was more about keeping his options open. He also competed in the US Open, saying he would be asking for a conflicting event to play the LIV Golf Invitational in London, the first of Norman’s $20 million tournaments.
The tour said earlier this week that it would not allow any releases.
Mickelson is the first major champion not to defend his title since Rory McIlroy at St Andrews in 2015 due to a knee injury from football.
He is only the third PGA champion not to defend his title in the past 75 years. Tiger Woods missed in 2008 while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, and Ben Hogan was unable to play in 1949 while recovering from his car being hit by a bus.
Mickelson’s problems were his own.
“Personally, I think it’s an incredible mental challenge to come back and play after what he’s done to himself,” six-time major champion and CBS analyst Nick Faldo said Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s as easy as just getting back on the bike and arriving at a golf tournament and playing. The attention will be huge.”
Now the focus is on whether Mickelson will brave the tour by playing in London in three weeks, or whether he would go to the US Open, the only major he never won.
His last time playing in America was at Torrey Pines on January 28. He missed the cut.
Shipnuck’s book comes out Tuesday. One of the excerpts he has already published on his “Firepit Collective” site included Mickelson saying that he had recruited players to pay lawyers to write the operating agreement of a new league.
“We know they killed Khashoggi and have a terrible human rights record. They execute people there because they are gay. If I know all this, why even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime a lifetime opportunity is to change how the PGA Tour works,” said Mickelson.
He called the PGA Tour and Commissioner Jay Monahan a “dictatorship.”
“I’m not sure I want it to work,” he said of the Saudi competition. “But just the idea of it allows us to get things done with the tour.”
Mickelson quickly lost corporate sponsors such as KPMG and Amstel Light, while Workday said it would not renew its deal with him. Mickelson released a statement describing his comment as “reckless” and apologizing for his choice of words.
Mickelson said in his statement that over the past 10 years he has felt pressure and stress on a deeper level and that he needs time.
But he didn’t say whether he would be taking a break from golf. He has not played since the Saudi International on February 6. He’s not playing this week. His statement concluded, “I know I haven’t been my best and I desperately need some time to prioritize those I love most and work on becoming the man I want to be.”
“I know I haven’t been at my best and I desperately need some time to prioritize those I love most and work on becoming the man I want to be,” he said in February.
Mickelson was replaced on the field by former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.