Phil Mickelson withdrew from the PGA Championship on Friday, opting to extend his golf suspension after he made inflammatory comments about the Saudi-funded rival league he supports and the PGA Tour, which he accused of greed.
Last year, Mickelson clinched one of the most stunning victories by winning the PGA at Kiawah Island, and at age 50 he became the oldest major champion in 161 years.
Now, a phrase that was popular a decade ago—”What’s Phil going to do next?”—has more appeal than pure excitement.
The PGA of America announced his decision on social media. The PGA Championship begins Thursday at South Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Mickelson, who has not played at the Saudi International since Feb. 6, accused the PGA Tour of “nasty greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
Two weeks later, in an excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s unauthorized biography due to be released next week, Mickelson revealed how he was working behind the scenes to promote funds funded by public investment funds and funded by A League of Rivals run by Greg Norman.
Mickelson dismisses Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, including killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, says if it means gaining influence to get what he wants on the PGA Tour Change, it’s worth it.
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 played in the U.S. Open and said he will be claiming the LIV Golf Invitational in London, the first of Norman’s $20 million tournament.
The tour said earlier this week that it would not approve any releases.
Mickelson is the first Grand Slam champion not to defend his title since Rory McIlroy suffered a knee injury while playing football at St Andrews in 2015.
He is the third PGA champion in the past 75 years without a defending title. Tiger Woods was sidelined in 2008 recovering from knee reconstruction surgery, while Ben Hogan was sidelined in 1949 after his car was hit by a bus.
Mickelson’s problems are self-inflicted.
“I personally think it’s an incredible mental challenge to come back and play after what he’s been through,” six-time major champion and CBS analyst Nick Faldo said Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as getting back on the bike and going to a golf tournament and playing. The attention is going to be huge.”
Attention now turns to whether Mickelson will challenge the Tour by playing in London in three weeks, or whether he will go to the U.S. Open, the only major he has never won.
He last played in the United States on January 28 at Torrey Pines. He missed the cut.
Shipnuck’s book is scheduled for release on Tuesday. Among the excerpts he has posted on his “Firepit Collective” website are that Mickelson said he recruited players to pay lawyers to write the new league’s operating agreement.
“We know they killed Khashoggi and have a terrible record on human rights. They execute people there because they are gay. Knowing all this, why should I even think about it? Because this is reinventing the PGA Tour A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the way the game works,” Mickelson said.
He called the PGA Tour and Commissioner Jay Monaghan a “dictatorship.”
“I’m not even sure I want it to be successful,” he said of the Saudi league. “But the idea of it was just to allow us to complete the tour.”
Mickelson quickly lost corporate sponsors such as KPMG and Amstel lights, and Workday said it would not renew his contract. Mickelson released a statement calling his comments “reckless” and apologizing for his wording.
Mickelson said in the statement that he has felt a deeper level of pressure and pressure over the past 10 years and that he needs time to leave.
But he did not say whether he would take a break from golf. He has not played since the Saudi International on February 6. He didn’t play this week. His February statement concluded: “I know I’m not doing my best, and I desperately need some time to prioritize the people I love the most and try to be who I want to be.”
Mickelson was replaced by former Masters champion Charles Schwarzer.
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