PGA Championship: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Jon Rahm discuss Phil Mickelson’s failure to defend his championship

PGA Championship
Source: Skysports

PGA Championship: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy may not agree with Phil Mickelson’s words before his self-imposed retirement from golf, but they both acknowledged they miss having him in the field this week to defend his PGA Championship title.

Mickelson, who won the PGA Championship last year shortly before turning 51 and became golf’s oldest major champion, retired from the sport in February following backlash for comments he made about a Saudi-backed golf league.

The author of an unofficial biography claimed that the six-time major champion informed him he was willing to overlook Saudi Arabia’s human rights record in order to obtain economic influence over the PGA Tour.

Saudi Arabia’s government has disputed allegations of human rights violations, and Mickelson later apologised for his off-the-record remarks.

During his pre-tournament press conference at Southern Hills, Woods stated that he has not spoken with or reached out to Mickelson since the comments were made public, but that he is upset that the defending champion is not in the field.

“It’s always disappointing when the defending champion is not here,” Woods said. “Phil [Mickelson] has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the [PGA] Tour and committed to the legacy of the Tour have pushed back against.

“He’s taken some personal time, and we all understand that. I think that some of his views on how the Tour could be run should be run…been a lot of disagreement there. As we all know, as a professional, we miss him being out here. I mean, he’s a big draw for the game of golf. He’s just taking his time and we all wish him the best when he comes back.

“I have not reached out to him. I have not spoken to him. A lot of it has not to do with I think personal issues. It was our viewpoints of how the Tour should be run and could be run, and what players are playing for and how we are playing for it. I have a completely different stance on it.”

Mickelson’s omission marks the first time the defending PGA Championship champion has not competed since 2008, when Tiger Woods was sidelined due to knee surgery, leaving McIlroy upset.

“This should be a celebration, right?” McIlroy said. “He won a major championship at 50 years old. It was possibly his last big, big moment in the game of golf. I think he should be here this week and celebrating what a monumental achievement he made last year. It’s unfortunate. It’s sad.”

Mickelson, who hasn’t competed on the PGA Tour since January, last competed in an Asian Tour event in Saudi Arabia in early February and hasn’t said when or where he wants to return following his hiatus.

Jon Rahm, the reigning US Open champion, has built a strong friendship with Mickelson and previously stated that the golfer’s legacy should not be tarnished because of the contentious comments.

Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America, said he spoke with Mickelson “before, during, and after” the tournament and that it was the golfer’s decision not to defend his title.

“I can really say that on Friday his camp called and said he’s not ready to play. Obviously, we respect that. We understand it,” said Waugh. “He’s going through a lot. I don’t really have a whole lot more to say. We’re disappointed he’s not here, and again, wish him all the best.”

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