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After the PGA of America announced that Phil Mickelson had withdrawn from the PGA Championship (opens in new tab), it is still unclear if, and when, he will make his competitive return, with many believing it will be under the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series (opens in new tab) banner and not the PGA Tour.
Many have spoken about the situation with Mickelson, as the 51-year-old continues to take a hiatus from the game following controversial comments he made about the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia. (opens in new tab)
Gary Player has stated that Mickelson is "being crucified" (opens in new tab) for his actions, while Justin Thomas has said that the six-time Major winner “doesn’t owe the game of golf anything” (opens in new tab). Now, another big name has had his say, with Major winning coach, Claude Harmon III, defending Mickelson in a passionate speech on Sky Sports.
"I'm mad that we're in this situation!" 😤Claude Harmon III on defending champion Phil Mickelson's withdrawal from the PGA Championship. ❌ pic.twitter.com/U8sC91lzt4May 15, 2022
Speaking to Nick Dougherty at the AT&T Byron Nelson (opens in new tab), Claude claimed that: "I'm just mad that we are in this situation," before adding: "Obviously, what has happened to Phil Mickelson has largely been self-inflicted and he is having to deal with the consequences of his own actions. But, it's thrown a really dark cloud over what I think is one of the great stories of, not just recent memory, but in the history of the game of golf and the history of the Major championships."
Following the opening statement, the American then spoke about Mickelson's historic victory at the PGA Championship (opens in new tab) last year, a tournament where he became the oldest Major winner at 50 years, 11 months and 3 days.
"The way that Phil Mickelson played in his 50s last year, in a Major championship, in the last group, with the ultimate Major championship alpha male over the last three or four years, Brooks Koepka. He dominated Brooks, he won that tournament, nobody gave him that tournament.
"What was amazing about what Phil did last year, on the golf course, was that he didn't do it by being a crafty veteran and kind of do it the way he always did, he did it by playing the game the way the modern game is played. He was outdriving Brooks, he dominated through length and I just think the loser to me is the game of golf."
Throughout his career, Mickelson has worked with Claude's father, Butch. During their time together, the pair picked up 14 wins including the 2010 Masters and 2013 Open Championship. Despite splitting, the duo have remained good friends.
Claude didn't stop there though with his statement. The American went on to speak about another individual that his father taught in his career, Tiger Woods, with Claude drawing comparisons between Mickelson and the 15-time Major winner.
"We're talking about all of this other garbage as opposed to what a great player and what a great champion like Phil Mickelson is doing on the golf course," explained the American. "In the same way that over the last three or four years we have gone through this with Tiger Woods as well.
"If you think about Phil and Tiger, they are both so dominant in this generation. They are icons in this generation and the talk is about more what is going on off the golf course than it is going on and, as a fan, regardless of whether you are a Phil fan or you're not, or whether you were one or you're not one now, I just think it is sad that this is what we are dealing with and this is what we have to talk about, as opposed to talking about Phil Mickelson coming and defending at the PGA in his early 50s."
Currently, it is unclear as to when Lefty will return to action, with the 51-year-old continuing his hiatus away from the game. It has been reported that Mickelson has signed an agreement to play in all eight Saudi-backed Series events (opens in new tab), with the first getting underway at Centurion Club in early June.
Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.
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