Defending champion Phil Mickelson withdraws from PGA Championship

TULSA, Okla. — Phil Mickelson will not be defending his PGA Championship title next week.

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The PGA of America announced on Friday that Mickelson, 51, has withdrawn from the event, which will be played at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bowing out of the tournament extends the six-time majors champion’s absence from golf since his controversial comments about a Saudi-funded rival league he supports, and his criticism of the PGA Tour, ESPN reported.

“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship,” the PGA of America said in a statement.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 currently eligible to be a PGA life member and we would have welcomed him to participate. We wish Phil and (his wife) Amy the very best and look forward to his return to golf.”

Mickelson made history at last year’s PGA Championship when he won at Kiawah Island at age 50, The Associated Press reported. That made Mickelson the oldest champion in the 161 years of major tournaments.

He is only the third PGA champion not to defend his title in the last 75 years, according to the AP. Tiger Woods missed the 2008 event while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, and Ben Hogan was unable to play in 1949, as he was recovering from an accident when his car was struck by a bus.

Mickelson, a three-time winner at the Masters, skipped last month’s event for the first time since 1994, ESPN reported.

Last month, Mickelson, a six-time majors champion, skipped the Masters, an event he won three times, for the first time since 1994.

He has not played since Feb. 6 at the Saudi International and has been out of public view. His last U.S. tournament came in January at his hometown event, the Farmers Insurance Open, at Torrey Pines, California, Golf Digest reported. Mickelson missed the cut.

Mickelson has won 45 PGA Tour events. His six majors include his two PGA Championship crowns (2005 and 2021), three Masters titles (2004, 2006 and 2010) and one British Open title (2013).

“Lefty” came under fire after he put out a statement responding to comments he made in a biography about him written by Alan Shipnuck, reported. The unauthorized biography will be released next week, according to ESPN.

Shipnuck wrote about Mickelson’s involvement with LIV Golf, the new company headed by Greg Norman, reported.

Mickelson criticized the PGA Tour for its “greed,” adding that he was overlooking the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s alleged human rights violations to gain leverage with the tour, ESPN reported.

“They’re scary (expletive) to get involved with,” Mickelson told Shipnuck during a conversation in November. “We know they killed (Washington Post reporter Jamal) Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”

Mickelson later apologized for his comments, ESPN reported.

The comments caused Mickelson to lose sponsorship deals with Amstel Light, KPMG and Workday, according to the sports network. Callaway, which in 2017 signed Mickelson to a contract through the end of his playing career, paused its relationship with the golfer, ESPN reported.

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