Phil Mickelson opts out of defending PGA Championship amid Saudi golf league controversy

By , Audacy Sports

Phil Mickelson has opted out of defending his PGA Championship next weekend due at Southern Hills, withdrawing from the tournament due to backlash he's faced for his involvement in Saudi Arabian-backed Super Golf League, fronted by Greg Norman.

The PGA of America made the announcement Friday that Mickelson has taken his name out of the tournament despite the governing body of the sport "welcoming" his return to the event.

“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship,” a statement from the PGA of America said.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 [wife] Amy the very best and look forward to his return to golf.”

The disgraced golfer hasn’t played competitively in a tournament in more than three months following his polarizing comments he made--bashing the PGA Tour and Saudis but claims he would consider playing in the middle east due to an "opportunity to change" the PGA Tour rather than help build up a foreign league in a country with a questionable human rights record.

Mickelson's explosive statements were released by golf writer Alan Shipnuck who is the ghostwriter for his biography. According to the 51-year-old golfer, the conversation that was released was supposed to be "off the record." Mickelson apologized before announcing that he will be taking time away from the links.

Like clockwork, a number of Mickelson's most well-known sponsors like Amstel Light, KPMG, and Workday have all ended their relationships with the golfer, with Callaway 'pausing' their connection with Mickelson.

The 2021 PGA Champion, who hasn’t played competitively in more than three months and has been withdrawn from the public eye also missed out on last month's Masters Touranment in Augusta--missing out on the prestigious event for the first time since 1994.

PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh sat down for an interview with the 5 Clubs podcast where he may have let loose that Mickelson may be serving a suspension from the PGA Tour. Waugh added that if Mickelson does participate in the PGA Championship, he hoped he would hold a press conference before the beginning of the tournament, saying the PGA is trying to run a tournament, not a "circus."

“The idea is if he does play, and if he’s able to and allowed to … he would certainly have to face the media,’’ Waugh said. “But I hope it’s Monday or Tuesday. What we’re trying to do is deliver a major championship, not a circus.’’

Even though the PGA of America is a different entity from the PGA Tour, Waugh and the Tour's president Jay Monahan are obviously close and align on the same policies.

It will certainly be interesting to see when or if Mickelson will play again and when he will address the media about the Saudi controversy.

Follow Jasper Jones on Twitter: @jonesj2342

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