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Reigning champ Mickelson withdraws from PGA Championship


Phil Mickelson stands on the 11th hole during round two of the North Course Open Farmers' Insurance Tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course on January 27, 2022 in La Jolla, California.  Donald Miralle / Getty Images / AFP (Photo by DONALD MIRALLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Phil Mickelson stands on the 11th hole during round two of the North Course Open Farmers’ Insurance Tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course on January 27, 2022 in La Jolla, California. (Getty image via AFP)

WASHINGTON – Defending Champion Phil Mickelsonwho has not played since making controversial comments on the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf series, has withdrawn from the PGA Championship, the PGA of America announced Friday.

The 51-year-old American left-hander became the biggest winner in golf history last year when he won the PGA at Kiawah Island for the sixth major title of his career.

But he hasn’t competed since January after his comments to author Alan Shipnuck in favor of the Saudi-backed rival for the US PGA were made public in February.

Mickelson, a 45-time US PGA Tour champion, did not compete at the Masters last month for the first time since 1994 and missed the PGA championship for the first time since his debut in 1993.

This is the first year Mickelson has missed two professional tournaments since 1993, when he did not compete in the US or British Open.

If Mickelson plays at the Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he will face questions about his role with a group of Saudi Arabians he calls “scary” with a “terrible record on human rights “.

Mickelson admits he’s willing to sidestep issues like the murder of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi in order to gain leverage for the US PGA Prize.

“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship,” the PGA of America said in a statement.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 now eligible to become a PGA Life Member and we would welcome him to join.

“We wish Phil and Amy all the best and look forward to his return to golf.”

Mickelson, ranked 58 in the world, issued an apology after his comments were made public, saying his experience with LIV Golf was “very positive” and called the people he works with was “supportive” and “foresight” even as his sponsors abandoned him and he began a break saying he would be “in dire need of some time away.”

When, or if, Mickelson will return to the PGA events remains unclear.

The LIV Golf series opening in London next month plans eight events this year, four events at US locations, but no player names have been revealed.

The US PGA Tour said earlier this week it had denied all requests by tour members to compete in the LIV London event, which will take place across from the US PGA’s Canadian Open.

At the center of the controversy is Mickelson, who received support from other players in February after issuing an apology.

“I don’t think his entire career or entire legacy should change because of a few remarks,” defending US Open champion Jon Rahm of Spain said of Mickelson.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy also backed Mickelson, although like Rahm, he turned down the LIV Golf lap.

“This whole situation is unfortunate,” McIlroy said. “Phil will be back. I think the players want to see him back. He did a great job for the game of golf.

“We should be allowed to ask for forgiveness and everyone please forgive us and move on. Hopefully people will welcome him back and be glad he’s back.”

Other players had a firmer message for supporters of the LIV Golf series, tired of questions about the upstart group.

“If you want to go, go,” said 2017 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas. “A lot of guys were behind the scenes saying, ‘I’m going, I’m doing this. Then just go.”

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