WASHINGTON—Reigning Champion Phil Michaelsonwho has not played since controversial comments about the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series were released, has withdrawn from the PGA Championship, the PGA of America announced Friday.
The 51-year-old American southpaw became the oldest major winner in golf history last year when he won the PGA at Kiawah Island for the sixth major title of his career.
But he has not played since January after his comments to author Alan Shipnuck endorsing the Saudi-backed rival on the US PGA Tour were made public in February.
Mickelson, a 45-time US PGA Tour winner, sat out last month’s Masters for the first time since 1994 and will miss the PGA Championship for the first time since making his debut in 1993.
It’s the first year Mickelson has missed two majors since 1993, when he didn’t play in the US Open or British Open.
Had Mickelson played Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he would have faced questions about his role with a Saudi group he called “terrifying” with a “horrible record on human rights.”
Mickelson has admitted to being willing to gloss over issues like the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi to gain influence over the US PGA Tour.
“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship,” the PGA of America said in a statement.
“Phil is the defending champion and is currently eligible for PGA Life Membership and we would have welcomed him to participate.
“We wish Phil and Amy the best and look forward to their return to golf.”
Mickelson, ranked 58th in the world, apologized after his comments became public, saying his experience with LIV Golf was “very positive” and calling those he worked with “supporters” and “visionaries,” even as sponsors abandoned him and he started. a break saying that he “desperately needed some time off”.
It’s unclear when, or if, Mickelson will return to PGA events.
The LIV Golf series that opens in London next month plans eight events this year, four in US venues, but the names of the players have not been revealed.
The US PGA Tour said earlier this week that it had turned down all requests from tour members to play in the LIV London event, which will be played against the US PGA Canadian Open.
At the center of the controversy is Mickelson, who had the support of other players in February after issuing his apology.
“I don’t think his whole career or his whole legacy should change because of a couple of comments,” reigning US Open champion Jon Rahm of Spain said of Mickelson.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy also threw his support behind Mickelson, though like Rahm, he has shunned LIV Golf.
“This whole situation is unfortunate,” McIlroy said. Phil wants to go back. I think the players want to see him back. He has done a wonderful job for golf.
“We should be allowed to apologize and for people to forgive us and move on. Hopefully people will welcome him and I’m glad he’s back.”
Other players had a stronger message for LIV Golf Series backers tired of questions about the upstart group.
“If you want to go, go,” said 2017 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas. “A lot of guys have been behind the scenes saying, ‘I’m going, I’m going to do this.’ Just go then.”
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