Phil Mickelson went from hero to zero as Saudi comments soured PGA Championship win

Phil Mickelson was due to be in Southern Hills this week to defend his PGA Championship title, instead he remains banned from the PGA Tour as his “hiatus” from golf continues.

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Mickelson signs up for controversial LIV Golf Invitational

Just 12 months ago Phil Mickelson found himself at the forefront of the golf world. Throughout his stellar career, Mickelson has heralded himself as one of the sport’s all-time greats, and that seemed to be crowned when he became golf’s oldest major champion in 2021.

The American rolled back the years to capture last year’s PGA Championship win with two shots at Kiawah Island in what was arguably the most impressive of his six big wins. Twelve months later, the second major of 2022 begins without its defending champion.

A year on from his triumph, Mickelson’s legacy couldn’t be further from Kiawah Island as the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series proves a thorn at the heart of his reputation.

The breakaway circuit has sent shockwaves through the golfing world over the past year, and Mickelson has found himself at the center of the saga. Initially, it seemed like the six-time major champion would be the event’s poster child, with his name often associated with the creation of the series.

While his open interest remained behind closed doors, his assault on the PGA Tour — the track where he spent most of his professional career — was made very public. His attack began in February this year when he accused the US-based tour of “insufferable greed” over players’ media rights.

For many, Mickelson’s comments seemed a little rich after the American netted £75million in winnings while taking part on the tour. With his name heavily linked to the controversial Saudi-backed circuit, it seemed his onslaught on the tour would be the perfect escape from prison to join the mega-riches of the new Breakaway series.

Phil Mickelson became the 2021 PGA champion.


(Getty Images)

While those comments unsurprisingly created an uproar between Mickelson, the Tour and the wider golfing world, what came next left his legacy in tatters. In quotes released for the creation of his new biography, the American’s anti-PGA Tour and Pro-LIV Series campaign quickly took a sharp turn.

During an interview with Shipnuck, the six-time Major winner opened up about the controversies surrounding Saudi Arabia, describing the state as “creepy shit.” His comments related to the Saudis’ poor human rights record and more specifically to the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Despite his concerns, Mickelson went on to hint that the horrific human rights story surrounding the Saudis was “influential” on the PGA Tour and its bosses. This seemed to be the beginning of the end for a man once considered one of the PGA Tour’s greatest players when a submissive apology ensued.

When and where do you think Mickelson will return to golf? Let us know in the comment section below.

Phil Mickelson has endorsed Greg Norman and the LIV series.


WME IMG via Getty Images)

Within that apology came the announcement that he was taking a break from competitive golf, causing him to miss the Masters for the first time in 28 years, but the real question was whether he would defend his PGA crown a month later. Well, he originally agreed to do so after his return was confirmed – alongside his application to attend the LIV series inaugural event at the Centurion Club next month.

His interest in attending the Saudi-backed inaugural event came as no surprise given his previous support, but one aspect that shocked many was the PGA Tour’s decision to block those who had applied to be released. It was originally thought that the circuit would give the green light to those who applied as the event was not being held on American soil.

However, Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan had other ideas and, in conjunction with the DP World Tour, decided to reject all bids to compete at the Saudi circuit in June. A week after that decision, another reversal took place when Mickelson further confirmed that despite his first appearance, he would not be defending his Southern Hills title.

Whether that was affected by Monhan’s decision to block his Saudi move remains to be seen, but pulling out of his title defense with less than a week to go shows Mickelson’s relationship with the PGA Tour is in tatters. It’s not yet known when – or if – the 51-year-old will return, but what is certain is that the glittering reputation cemented on Kiawah Island 12 months ago is long gone.

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