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When news broke that Phil Mickelson would miss this year’s Masters for the first time in 28 years, it came as a surprise to many despite his controversial 2022 so far.
Mickelson has not competed in a tournament since releasing a statement last month apologising for comments he’d made in relation to the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed golf league. That isn't a shock, because in the same statement, he explained he needed time away from the game, saying: “The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly affecting me at a deeper level. I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be."
However, skipping The Masters is not something you do lightly, particularly after you’ve been an ever-present at the event since 1994 – and having won the Green Jacket three times. Still, the furore surrounding Mickelson’s remarks, in which he accused the PGA Tour of obnoxious greed over its stance on image rights and suggested he was using the Greg Norman-fronted league to leverage the tour, was considerable.
Mickelson’s statement caused an immediate backlash from prominent golf figures, and led to the 51-year-old losing many of his sponsors. That negative response can't have been what Mickelson had in mind when he released the statement, and perhaps gave him reason to rethink any plans he may have had to make a triumphant comeback at Augusta.
While there have been a few words of encouragement for Mickelson in recent weeks, most notably from Rory McIlroy, who said the six-time Major winner deserves forgiveness, it is perhaps the timing that is the most pressing issue in Mickelson’s decision not to tee it up at Augusta this year. The Saudi-backed league, the LIV Golf Invitational Series, was only announced last week, and with The Masters now just two weeks away, an appearance of Lefty at the tournament could deflect much of the attention from the action itself and onto him.
With The Masters no longer an option for Mickelson’s comeback, all eyes will turn to May’s PGA Championship. Mickelson became the oldest Major winner at last year’s event, and it’s hard to imagine he won’t want to return this year to defend his title. Of course, nothing is confirmed at this point. After all, if Mickelson is prepared to miss arguably the most prestigious tournament in golf – and one he’s won three times – anything is possible.
However, it looks as though whenever he does opt to end his self-imposed exile, he will have to make the first move. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan recently declared of Mickelson that “the ball is in his court". With Mickelson’s announcement of his break from the game coming only four weeks ago, it may just be that The Masters comes too soon for the process of rebuilding bridges to begin.
Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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