'Can't believe it': Golf wold stunned by Phil Mickelson announcement
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."
Phil Mickelson listed on the Masters web site as a past champion who won't be competing. pic.twitter.com/Af7oeiYBAL
— Bob Weeks (@BobWeeksTSN) March 21, 2022
Uncertainty surrounds Phil Mickelson's return
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.”
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."
Phil Mickelson has played in every single Masters since I was born. Damn. https://t.co/RW3lxCeirR
— Dan Rapaport (@Daniel_Rapaport) March 21, 2022
The last time Phil Mickelson didn’t compete in the Masters…
… Augusta National played to 6,905 yards…
… the total purse was $1.7 million…
… Jack Nicklaus shared FRL honors…
… Justin Leonard was low amateur…
… and Bernhard Langer was still winning tournaments.
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) March 21, 2022
Genuinely surprised Phil Mickelson is missing The Masters. Explains the severity of the situation. But I’ll be genuinely stunned if he doesn’t defend the his PGA title in May.
— Luke Elvy (@Luke_Elvy) March 21, 2022
Golf’s ongoing cancellation of Phil Mickelson has now forced him out of the Masters. You don’t have to agree with the things he said recently, for which he apologised, to think this is now turning into an unedifying sporting crucifixion. I’ll play with you, @PhilMickelson 🏌️♂️
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 21, 2022
Lost that bet. Can’t believe @philmickelson isn’t playing https://t.co/CWdH8JbrDK
— Tony (@golferinatlanta) March 21, 2022
I can't believe @PhilMickelson is going to miss his first @TheMasters in 28 years. He has been playing in it since 1994 and has three @TheMasters wins. He can't have many chances left to play the Masters and still be competitive, so the news seems rather shocking. #golf pic.twitter.com/lha42ESthU
— Shanking Shots (@ShankingShots) March 21, 2022
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