Reigning Champion Phil Mickelson Withdraws from PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson said on Friday that he will not defend his PGA Championship title after dropping out of the game in February in the middle of comments he made about a Saudi-backed golfer.

Mickelson had kept golf fans guessing if he would be at the Southern Hills Country Club next week, but speculation ended with the PGA of America confirming he would not be in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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The 51-year-old American will be only the third PGA Champion not to defend his title after Tiger Woods in 2008 and Ben Hogan in 1949, who both dropped out due to injury.

“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship,” said the PGA of America. “Phil is a defending champion and currently qualified to become a PGA Life Member and we would have welcomed him to participate.

“We wish Phil and Amy all the best and look forward to his return to golf.”

Mickelson’s public image was hit when the author of an illicit biography of the six-time major said that the golfer told him he was willing to look past Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to gain influence with the PGA Tour.

The Saudi government has denied allegations of human rights abuses and Mickelson later apologized for the comments, which he claimed were off the record, and then said he planned to take time off from the sport.

Mickelson became golf’s oldest major champion at last year’s PGA Championship when, less than a month before he turned 51, he held back Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen to triumph with two shots on the Kiawah Islands Ocean Course.

Last month, Mickelson applied for a release from the PGA Tour to play in the first LIV Golf Invitational event, to be held June 9-11 near London, and also registered for the PGA Championship and June 16-19.

The PGA Tour on Tuesday rejected requests from several players, including Mickelson, for permission to play the LIV opener.

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