AUGUSTA, Ga. — In 2004, there was a Ford-created ad campaign starring spokesperson Phil Mickelson that asked this question, “What’s Phil going to do next?”
This question has never been more relevant than now. Because one thing Phil won’t do next is serve in the first round of Thursday’s Masters, a tournament he’s won three times and has competed in every year since 1994.
And that’s a damn shame.
Mickelson, 51, the reigning PGA champion and still one of the most popular players in the sport’s history, has been essentially exiled since February after controversial comments he made to a reporter, which he said made were part of a private conversation, were made public.
The reaction to his criticisms of the PGA Tour and the admission that he was involved in a rival Saudi league has left Mickelson alone on an island. In February, he issued an apology statement and said he would take some time off the game.
Mickelson then did not play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship, but it seemed inscrutable that at his age, with the window on his realistic chances of winning a fourth green jacket closing, he would voluntarily skip the Masters.
But here we are at the Masters without Mickelson.
His absence has sparked some theories – was he suspended from the PGA Tour (which is inexplicably not transparent on such matters) or was the Masters asking him not to come?
On Wednesday, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said in his annual State of the Masters press conference that the Masters had nothing to do with Mickelson not competing this year.
“We didn’t uninvite Phil,” Ridley said. “Phil is a three-time Masters champion and is invited in this category and many others; He is the defending champion of the PGA. Phil contacted me, I believe it was late February, early March, and let me know he had no plans to play. That was via text.
“I thanked him for his courtesy in letting me know about it. I told him we really appreciated it and told him that I would definitely be willing to discuss it further with him if he would like. He thanked me and we had a very warm exchange.”
Nobody seems to know where Mickelson is or what his intentions are regarding his return.
“I tried to reach him but he’s gone dark … there’s no contact,” Bryson DeChambeau said.
DeChambeau’s experience aligns with The Post’s efforts to reach Mickelson with no response.
Mickelson’s wording was poor when he denounced the PGA Tour for its “insufferable greed” in an interview with Golf Digest. That’s how they were in the “private conversation” with reporter Alan Shipnuck, who called the Saudis “creepy motherfuckers” for their terrible human rights record while admitting he had used the Saudis and their money as leverage against the PGA Tour.
But the buildup against him has bordered on mob mentality.
Mickelson is a high-profile individual who made a high-profile mistake and was ostracized for it like he spent the winter KOing older women and stealing their wallets.
Last month, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, emboldened by nearly every senior player who publicly professed their allegiance to the Tour rather than the Saudis, displayed an arrogant side when he made it sound like Mickelson needed to come to him and excuse me before he was allowed to play again.
Fellow players — many of whom helped Mickelson thrive financially on the PGA Tour — spoke out harshly against him and denounced his comments. Rory McIlroy, one of those critical players, went back to some of his comments at Bay Hill and found that he had overdone it, asking for forgiveness and a second chance.
Mickelson hasn’t benefited from any of those things thanks to the abandonment culture.
Twelve years ago, Tiger Woods – his reputation tarnished by his rampant extramarital affairs – was welcomed back to Augusta some five months after the sordid details were released (albeit after an awkward and misplaced public scolding from then-Augusta chairman Billy Payne). Now Woods is like a deity as he walks through Augusta.
Will Mickelson one day be forgiven like Woods?
In the meantime, we’re waiting to see if Mickelson will be in Tulsa next month to defend the PGA championship he won last year when he became the oldest player to ever win a major championship.
If he doesn’t play Southern Hills in May, that’s just as unfortunate as not being in Augusta this week.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/06/phil-mickelsons-exile-from-golf-has-been-long-enough/ Phil Mickelson’s exile from the Gulf was long enough