Phil Mickelson’s exile, not just from professional golf but from public life, continues next week at the PGA Championship. This is not only a pity for the sport, but also a blot on the second major championship of the year.
Mickelson, 51, will not defend his historic 2021 PGA championship title next week at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla. A year ago, Mickelson became the oldest major champion in the history of the sport when he conquered the PGA at age 50 with one virtuosic performance on the Ocean Course of Kiawah Island in South Carolina.
Next week he will be noticed by his absence.
“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has retired from the PGA Championship,” the PGA of American said in a statement released Friday afternoon. “Phil is the defending champion and currently eligible to become a PGA Life member and we would have welcomed him to attend. We wish Phil and [wife] Amy the very best and looking forward to his return to golf.”
Mickelson has not played competitively for more than three months. He has retired from public life since explosive and controversial comments he made about the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed league led by Greg Norman – which Mickelson claimed was part of a private conversation with – were released to be a golf writer.
Still, the backlash was like whiplash, leaving Mickelson reeling from public view. Mickelson skipped the Masters at Augusta National last month, the first time he hadn’t played there since 1994. He has won this tournament, which he calls his favorite, three times and he still believes he can win there.
Now he will miss defending his 2021 PGA championship, which would have been perhaps the most notable of his six major wins given his age.
To be clear, Mickelson made some serious mistakes. Even by his own admission, berating the PGA Tour for “insufferable greed” in an interview with Golf Digest’s John Huggan was not a good sight.
What followed, when he dubbed the Saudis “creepy motherf-kers” for the human rights atrocities taking place there and admitted he was using the nation-backing LIV Golf Invitational Series as a bargaining chip against the PGA Tour, was a mistake if one considering he made it an assumption that he spoke to the reporter confidentially without calling the conversation confidential prior to speaking.
But when is enough, enough?
Mickelson didn’t break any laws. Other actors have committed even more egregious errors in the court of public opinion. Think of Tiger Woods (who destroyed his family with rampant infidelity and several dangerous motor vehicle incidents) more than once. And yet, Woods remains a idolized figure in the sport.
“[Mickelson] Will be back,” CBS’s lead golf network, Jim Nantz, said this week. “Sometimes we get caught in the cyclone of history and think it’s forever. It won’t be forever. He’ll come back, he’ll play, he’s got a lot of fans out there. This is a forgiving nation and there are a million examples of people finding their way back to the top and I firmly believe that one day he will.”
PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh made a comment in a recent interview with the 5 Clubs podcast that suggested Mickelson was serving a PGA Tour suspension. Waugh spoke about Mickelson dodging a press conference before serving again.
“The idea is if he plays, and if he’s able and allowed to do it… he certainly has to face the media,” Waugh said of the prospect of Mickelson playing next week.
The “if he may” comment raised the question of whether Waugh knows something the rest of us don’t. The PGA of America and the PGA Tour are separate governing bodies, but Waugh and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan are close and have very similar policies.
Waugh also revealed that he’s had “multiple” conversations with Mickelson.
“I think he’s trying to figure out when the timing is right for him,” Waugh said. “I think the game is also trying to figure out the right timing for him. How long is enough?”
Now is “enough”.
News of Mickelson’s retirement was bad for the 104th PGA Championship and, more importantly, bad for golf.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/13/phil-mickelsons-absence-from-pga-major-stain-on-golf/ Phil Mickelson’s absence from the PGA is a major blemish for golf