'Can't believe it': Golf wold stunned by Phil Mickelson announcement

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Phil Mickelson, pictured here during a press conference at the Masters in 2020.
Phil Mickelson during a press conference at the Masters in 2020. (Photo by Augusta National via Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson has made the staggering decision to withdraw from next month's Masters tournament following the controversy surrounding his recent comments about Saudi Arabia.

The American's status had been in question since he criticised the US PGA Tour last month in remarks supporting a Saudi-backed rival circuit.

Mickelson later apologised, saying he needed some time away from golf.

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On Monday, Mickelson's name was moved from the list of players expected to compete in the Masters to a section at the bottom titled 'past champions not playing'.

The list generally features elder statesmen of the sport who have claimed the green jacket at past events - including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Nick Faldo.

However that list did not include Tiger Woods, who is recovering from severe leg injuries suffered in a car crash 13 months ago.

It will mark the first time Mickelson is not at the Masters since 1994, when he was recovering from a broken leg suffered while skiing.

The major question surrounding Mickelson now would be if the 51-year-old American left-hander will defend his title at the PGA Championship, which will be played in May at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Last year Mickelson became golf's oldest major champion ever when he won the PGA Championship at age 50.

After alienating US PGA Tour leaders and organisers of the upstart Saudi-backed tour, Mickelson said last month he was taking time away from the sport.

"The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level," he said in a statement.

"I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritise the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be."

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The scandal erupted when golf writer and author Alan Shipnuck published part of his upcoming biography on Mickelson that shed light on his involvement with Greg Norman and the Saudi-funded 'Super Golf League'.

Mickelson told Shipnuck the Saudis behind the proposed breakaway rival league were “scary mother (expletive)s to get involved with.”

He also said it was worth getting in bed with the Saudis, despite their history of human rights abuses, if it meant a chance to change the PGA Tour.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Phil Mickelson, pictured here in action at the PIF Saudi International.
Phil Mickelson in action at the PIF Saudi International. (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

Mickelson has not played since last month's Saudi International and last played a US PGA event at Torrey Pines in January.

Both events occurred before the rival tour controversy erupted.

PGA commissioner Jay Monahan said earlier this month that he hasn't spoken with Mickelson about his comeback plans.

"When he's ready to come back to the PGA Tour, we're going to have that conversation," Monahan said.

"That's a conversation I look forward to."

with agencies

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