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Phil Mickelson will not defend title at PGA Championship

The PGA Championship announced Phil Mickelson's withdrawal from its tournament Friday, extending the six-time major winner's golf hiatus. (David J. Phillip / AP)
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Defending champion Phil Mickelson withdrew from the PGA Championship, the tournament announced Friday, extending the star’s absence after he came under fire for comments supporting a breakaway circuit financed by the Saudi Arabian government.

“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship,” the tournament wrote in a statement.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 Amy the very best and look forward to his return to golf.”

Mickelson, 51, stunned the golf world by becoming the oldest major winner in the sport’s history at last year’s PGA. He last played on the tour in late January, when he missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. His most recent competitive appearance came at the Saudi International, an Asian Tour event at which he finished tied for 18th in early February. That same month, Mickelson received widespread criticism for his support of the breakaway LIV Golf Invitational Series financed by the Saudi Arabian government.

The PGA Tour told its members this week they will not be allowed to play in the first of those LIV events, scheduled for next month in London.

While the upstart circuit has no shortage of critics, Mickelson told unofficial biographer Alan Shipnuck in November that he was willing to overlook Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to get the new league off the ground.

“They’re scary motherf-----s to get involved with,” Mickelson said. “We know they killed [Washington Post columnist 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.”

The six-time major winner lost several sponsorships after his comments were publicized in February, and he has not played since, missing the Masters during that stretch.

Mickelson has won the PGA’s Wanamaker Trophy twice, first in 2005 and then in May 2021. There was no certainty he would defend his title at Southern Hill in Tulsa in the wake of his incendiary comments, and he issued a statement after they were publicized saying he would “desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.”

Mickelson’s withdrawal comes days before Shipnuck’s May 17 book release. The PGA Championship begins two days later.

Steve Loy, Mickelson’s longtime manager, said in April that the golfer had signed up for the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open, which is set for next month in Brookline, Mass.

“Phil currently has no concrete plans on when and where he will play,” Loy said in a statement released late last month. “Any actions taken are in no way a reflection of a final decision made, but rather to keep all options open.”

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LIV Golf: The Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, controversial and lavish, figures to present some level of harm to the stately old PGA Tour. Players are noticing.

Barry Svrluga: “LIV Golf? At the moment, at least, it feels like it has more legs. This is more than an existential threat to the way professional golf is staged and the way professional golfers make their schedules and their livings. This is an actual threat.”

The Shark is on the attack again: With decades of resentment and an appetite for combat, golf legend Greg Norman is throwing his sport into chaos. This time, he’s doing it with Saudi money.