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Phil Mickelson made history last year at Kiawah Island when, at the age of 50, he became the oldest Major champion in the history of the game. It would appear his title defence has been cast into doubt following his recent announcement that he has requested permission to take part in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series opener at the Centurion Club in June.
Since Lefty hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy, the following year has been somewhat turbulent with the American exiled as his Saudi allegiance caused friction with the PGA Tour. Lety aggrieved both parties when it was revealed he used the Saudi approach as leverage against the Tour's stance with player media rights; something he publicly apologised for before taking a sabbatical from the game. The six-time Major winner has not played a competitive round since the Saudi International in February and missed his first Masters since 1994.
Mickelson has since requested a release from the PGA Tour to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series opener in June, just one week prior to the US Open - where he has also filed entry. Per a report in the Telegraph, he has done so to the dissatisfaction of the PGA of America who are disgruntled that Lefty revealed that fact in the same statement where he informed the golfing world of his registration for the PGA Championship.
The growing consensus now, according to the Telegraph, is that Mickelson may opt out of a title defence at Southern Hills in favour of featuring at the Centurion Club in the $25m curtain raiser for the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
"Our client Phil Mickelson is officially registered to play in the PGA Championship as well as the U.S. Open," the statement by Steve Loy at SPORTFIVE agency read. "We have also filed a request on his behalf for a release to play in the first LIV Golf Invitational in London, June 9 - 11. This request complies with the deadline of April 25 set forth by the PGA Tour to compete in a conflicting tour event.
"Phil currently has no concrete plans on when and where he will play. Any actions taken are in no way a reflection of a final decision made, but rather to keep all options open."
The PGA Tour is expected to grant permission for members to play at the Centurion Club but deny any further requests as they clash with PGA Tour events in North America. Five of the eight events are set to take place in the USA, almost guaranteeing further friction and legal battles between the PGA Tour and the Greg Norman-fronted Series as the year progresses.
Sources have reported that Lefty received a $30m upfront payment and must either appear in each Series event or pay back a percentage of that fee (with a possible penalty).
James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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