At the PGA Championship, the absence of Phil Mickelson is “an elephant in the room”

At the PGA Championship, the absence of Phil Mickelson is “an elephant in the room”

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TULSA – Here in the hot hills of northeast Oklahoma, Phil Mickelson once walked into the players’ locker room at the end of the 2001 US Open and stood at a sink in front of a mirror at 0 for 33 as a pro in majors, his face embodying that athletic combination of exhaustion and disgust.

Surely now for the 104th PGA Championship in that same Southern Hills, he would appear for a mass party at a 6-for-115 fine in the majors, a callback to his historic arc at Kiawah Island in South Carolina last year, where vertigo teeming with beer veins followed golf’s oldest major winner to 18th place on the Atlantic coast.

Instead, while other defending champions have missed the game on defense through injury – Rory McIlroy at the 2015 British Open and Tiger Woods at the 2008 PGA, to name two – Mickelson is became the first to miss because he made despicable comments about the murder. and execution published three months ago. It’s another nadir in his new role as a dastardly recluse who missed both the Masters and the PGA to avoid firestorms.

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As wrinkles disappear in an eccentric sport, it is an outlier.

“It should be a party, right?” McIlroy said of Mickelson on Tuesday. “He won a major championship at 50. This was perhaps his last great moment in the game of golf. He should be – I think he should be here this week and celebrate the monumental achievement he made last year. It’s unfortunate. It’s sad. Yes, I don’t know what else to say.

Here, his glaring absence doubles as an “elephant in the room,” as PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh put it. Here, the others talk about him while he does not talk about himself. Newcomer Viktor Hovland called it a “weird situation, that’s for sure”. Long-time great hunter Rickie Fowler called Mickelson’s self-inflicted spell “a tough time over the past few months, a tough spot to be in” and said, “It’s a shame he didn’t have felt like that was where he should be right. is now here. Top golfers such as Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas said nicely that they really had nothing to say.

Brooks Koepka – who finished tied for second, two strokes behind Mickelson, last year and won this event in 2018 and 2019 among four major titles – followed his usual unflappable route.

“Not here,” Koepka said of Mickelson. “There really isn’t much else I can say.”

A few questions later, he added something, that he expected more from himself than to tie for second place. “Last year, I felt like [I] gave it,” he said. “I didn’t pressure him. I missed a two-foot putt on hole 4 or 3 or something and didn’t put pressure all the way. I didn’t do anything and just handed it to him.

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That said, Mickelson still retains the 2021 title.

“Look,” said Waugh, whose organization runs the PGA Championship, “no one was more excited than we were last year when Phil got his epic win, right? It’s amazing. He did something no one else has ever done and won a major at 50. It was one of golf’s great moments, and we’ll never forget it. defend him. He is not here. …

“It’s his choice. He and I had a few conversations before, during and after, and I can definitely say that on Friday his side called and said they weren’t ready to play. Of course, we respect that. We understand that.

In scathing comments made to Golf Digest in Saudi Arabia in early February, Mickelson referred to the PGA Tour’s “abhorrent greed” and hailed the potential Saudi rival tour as a mechanism to funnel more PGA Tour funds to players. He emphasized media rights, including that the tour can “charge companies to use [clips of] blows that I struck. He said of the PGA Tour: “It was the hateful greed of the Tour that really opened the door to opportunities elsewhere.”

In self-destructive comments to writer Alan Shipnuck uttered last November but published later that month, Mickelson said of Saudi Arabia: “They are scary mothers —— to be with imply. We know they killed [Jamal] Khashoggi” – the Saudi resident of the United States and Washington Post columnist – “and have a horrible human rights record. They execute people there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a unique opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour works. They were able to get by with manipulative, coercive and heavy-handed tactics because we players had no recourse. Such a nice guy [PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan] seems like, unless you have leverage, it won’t do the right thing. And Saudi money finally gave us that leverage. I’m not sure I want [the Saudi venture] succeed, but the mere thought of it allows us to get things done with the [PGA] To visit.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Tiger Woods said: “Well it’s always disappointing when the defending champion isn’t around. Phil said some things that I think a lot of us who are engaged in the tour and attached to the legacy of the tour got rejected, and it took personal time, and we all understand that.

“But I think some of his opinions on how the tour could be organized, should be organized… there was a lot of disagreement there. But as we all know, as a professional, we miss him here. I mean, it’s a big draw for the game of golf. He’s just taking his time, and we all wish him the best on his return. Obviously we’re going to have differences of opinion, how he sees the tour, and we’ll go from there.

Woods referenced the late 1960s when Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer led a split from the PGA of America to form a Players Tour. “I understand different points of view,” Woods said, “but I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in great events, in comparisons with historical figures of the past. There’s a lot of money here. The tour is expanding. But it’s like any other sport. . . . You have to go out there and earn it.

Asked if he had contacted Mickelson, Woods replied, “I haven’t contacted him. I haven’t spoken to him. It has a lot to do with, I think, personal issues. It was our take on how the circuit should and could be organized, why players play and how we play for that. I have a completely different position and so, no, I didn’t.

The strangeness, and another major, play on it.

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