Why Is Phil Mickelson Missing The PGA Championship?

We detail the events leading up to Phil Mickelson's withdrawal from the PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson walks off the green in golf tournement
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson made history at the 2021 PGA Championship when, at the age of 50, he became the oldest Major champion in history. Fast forward a year and Lefty is not in the field to defend his title - but why?

It started towards the end of last year when rumours of a breakaway tour funded by Saudi Arabia began to surface. With those rumours came the continued speculation of who would take part and one name repeatedly came up - Phil Mickelson. 

But things hit rock-bottom in February when an excerpt of an upcoming biography went public. Within, it quoted Mickelson as describing the Saudis as "scary motherf*****s to get involved with" before insisting: "we know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it?"

Mickelson went on to describe his involvement in the LIV Golf Invitational Series as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates" before accusing the Tour of using "manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics."

The issue that rattled Mickelson most was player media rights. Ahead of the Saudi International - which Lefty reportedly received a seven-figure appearance fee - he launched a scathing attack on the PGA Tour, claiming those at the helm were guilty of “obnoxious greed” in withholding so much revenue from players

“As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [it] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour," he said.

Mickelson issued an almost immediate apology once his comments were made public and described his actions as "reckless". He also announced that he was to take a step back from the game.

The Masters seemed the likely stage for a return; the scene where he first tasted Major championship success. Privately however, Mickelson informed Augusta National officials that he would not contend. A return to action seemed ever likely when Lefty registered to defend his PGA Championship title but he later backtracked and informed the PGA of America that he would not take part. Mickelson has not spoken publicly about either withdrawal. 

Mickelson's absence at Southern Hills will be felt by many this week; including Rory McIlroy, who admitted that his opinion on the situation has "softened" in recent weeks. 

Speaking ahead of the PGA Championship, the Northern Irishman said: "This should be a celebration, right? He won a major championship at 50-years-old. It was possibly his last big, big moment in the game of golf. He should be - I think he should be - here this week and celebrating what a monumental achievement he achieved last year."

Mickelson's return to competitive action is not yet known. He had requested a release to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series opener at Centurion Club in June but the PGA Tour confirmed that it would not grant release to its members. He has also registered for the US Open which is scheduled to take place one week after.

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.