Phil Mickelson will not defend his title at the PGA Championship this year amid fallout from his comments about Saudi Arabia and his links to the Saudi-funded rival golf league, the PGA of America announced Friday.
The organization was informed that Mickelson was withdrawing from the tournament even though the PGA welcomed his participation. Mickelson becomes just the third PGA champion not to defend his title in the last 75 years.
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“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship,” a PGA statement said. “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.”
At age 50, Mickelson became the oldest champion in 161 years of the majors, but the four-time PGA Tour winner has not played since Feb. 6 after he accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
Two weeks later, in an excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s unauthorized biography to be released next week, Mickelson revealed how he had been working behind the scenes to promote the rival league funded by the Public Investment Fund and run by Greg Norman.
He also seemed to dismiss Saudi Arabia’s human rights atrocities, including the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashogg.
After sparking fierce backlash and the loss of sponsors, Mickelson apologized and called his comments “reckless.”
The PGA announced this week it would not be granting releases for players looking to compete in the first LIV Golf Invitational next month, citing the “best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”
“We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour tournament regulations. As such, Tour members are not authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event under our regulations,” the memo stated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.