US PGA Championship organisers have dropped a bombshell on the golfing world after announcing that Phil Mickelson won't be defending his title this year.
Mickelson made history at the tournament last year after becoming the oldest men's major winner of all time.
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The historic victory at Kiawah Island - a two-shot win over Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen - came just a month before Micklson's 51st birthday.
However, the American's participation at this year's event has ben under a cloud after he took an indefinite break from the game, following explosive comments he made about the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, headed up by Aussie legend Greg Norman.
The six-time major winner officially registered for the US PGA and next month's US Open on April 25 and also requested a release from the PGA Tour to play the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event from June 9-11, a request which was denied earlier this week.
His agent said at the time Mickelson was simply keeping his options open and did not have "concrete plans" about his return to action.
However, in a Twitter post on Friday evening, the PGA of America wrote: "We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship.
"Phil is the defending champion and currently eligible to be a PGA Life Member and we would have welcomed him to participate.
"We wish Phil and Amy (his wife) the very best and look forward to his return to golf."
The stunning development has divided the golf world, with many fans still angry about his controversial comments about the Saudi-backed rebel competition.
What a sad story this Phil Mickelson story is
— Danny Kowalski (@Dannykowalski22) May 13, 2022
Nobody cancelled Phil Mickelson, but Phil Mickelson. He chose a brutal dictator and murderer. Good Riddance
— Peg Manley (@ManleyPeg) May 13, 2022
Wow . Phil Mickelson w/d from PGA next week.
— John Abendroth (@johnabendroth) May 13, 2022
Phil Mickelson is out of the PGA Championship. The defending champion has withdrawn from Southern Hills next week. He did not give a reason. https://t.co/thF9lFdW6w
— Tulsa World (@tulsaworld) May 13, 2022
Man I’m disappointed about this Phil Mickelson situation. May not ever see him play again and it sounds like he’s only getting in deeper with the wrong folks.
— Max Manning (@maxersloan) May 13, 2022
Didn’t know Mickelson W/D’ed from the PGA Championship. The defending champ. Things are about to get really interesting.
— Dr. J.J. by the Bay (@flagg_colonel) May 13, 2022
Phil Mickelson’s absence from competitive golf to continue as defending champ withdraws from next week’s PGA Championship https://t.co/xq2dx1wZ4n
— mohamed el amine (@Mohamed04680219) May 13, 2022
Wow. Hard to see where Phil Mickelson returns to “real” golf now. The PGA Championship gave him cover as the defending champion, and without the PGA Tour running the event.
It seems he must be 100% in on LIV golf. https://t.co/PeYpOxHfsK
— John Ziegler (@Zigmanfreud) May 13, 2022
PGA Championship 2022: Phil Mickelson Southern Hills https://t.co/ozyElvLhWj Wow. Say what you want about Phil, but he has been good for the game of golf. So sad to see that he will not defend his PGA Championship...😟
— Chuck Buquet (@Chuck_Buquet) May 14, 2022
Phil Mickelson on a break after Saudi remarks
The left-hander has not played since February's Saudi International, shortly after which his comments about the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed events were made public.
In an interview with the author of a forthcoming biography, Mickelson admitted he was well aware of Saudi Arabia's "horrible record on human rights", including the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, but was using the threat of a breakaway to "reshape" how the Tour operates.
Norman said the full league of 14 events had been ready to launch in mid-February until Mickelson's comments cost him several sponsors and resulted in some players backing out.
LIV Golf, of which two-time Open champion Norman is the CEO, have instead set up eight 48-man events in 2022, each with a prize fund of $A30 million, with the first to be staged at Centurion Club in Hertfordshire from June 9-11.
The plan is to stage 10 events in 2023 and the full 14 from 2024, with Norman insisting he is looking "decades" into the future.
Mickelson apologised for his reckless comments then.
"I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and many have been shared with the public. My intent was never to hurt anyone and I'm so sorry to the people I have negatively impacted.
"I have experienced many successful and rewarding moments that I will always cherish, but I have often failed myself and others too.
"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 prioritise the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be."
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