Reigning PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson, who has not played competitively in more than three months, will not defend his title next week at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The PGA of America announced Friday that Mickelson has retired from the PGA Championship.
“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has retired from the PGA Championship,” the statement said. “Phil is the defending champion and currently eligible to become a PGA Life member and we would have welcomed him to attend. We wish Phil and [wife] Amy the very best and looking forward to his return to golf.”
Last month, Mickelson, a six-time major champion, skipped the Masters for the first time since 1994, an event he won three times.
Mickelson became golf’s oldest major champion when he won the PGA at Kiawah Island in South Carolina last year at the age of 50. He hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in Torrey Pines in late January.
Mickelson is taking a break from golf after his controversial comments about the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian financiers of a breakaway circuit were published by author Alan Shipnuck, whose unauthorized biography of the golfer popularly known as “Lefty” is due out next week .
Mickelson has criticized the PGA Tour for its “greed” and said he is looking beyond the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s alleged human rights abuses to use the Tour to apply pressure.
“They’re creepy moms to get involved with,” Mickelson told Shipnuck during a November conversation. “… They killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a terrible human rights record. They execute people there because they are gay. Knowing all this, why should I even consider it? Because this is a unique opportunity to transform the way the PGA Tour operates.”
Mickelson later apologized for his comments.
Longtime sponsors Amstel Light, KPMG and Workday ended their ties with him. Callaway, who signed Mickelson until the end of his playing career in 2017, put his relationship with him on hiatus.
PGA Tour pro Charley Hoffman, who also grew up in San Diego and is one of Mickelson’s closest friends, told ESPN on Wednesday he would be surprised if Mickelson played at Southern Hills.
“I think Phil’s probably in really good shape mentally right now, to be honest,” Hoffman said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t play. I don’t know if he wants to deal with it [the media]. He’s done it all his life. I think he has enough respect for the game he’s going to play, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t. I don’t think he wants to deal with that.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Mickelson is only the fourth golfer in the past 50 years not to attempt to defend his title at a Major next year. Rory McIlroy was the last in 2015 when he missed The Open after injuring his ankle playing football just before the tournament. Tiger Woods missed the 2008 PGA Championship after winning them in 2006 and 2007 while still recovering from knee surgery. Payne Stewart, the 1999 US Open champion, died in a plane crash in October 1999.