Is Phil Mickelson playing the 2022 PGA Championship?
Fans have been hoping that Phil Mickelson would end his golf exile after those Saudi league controversial comments in time to defend his PGA Championship title this year. Surely the PGA major would be the perfect stage for his comeback?
If you had told us that one year after Phil Mickelson became the oldest golfer to win a major at age 50, with his astounding win at Kiawah Island for his second PGA Championship, he would be mired in controversy so career-damaging that many would wonder if he’ll ever return to the game, Iwe would have told you to ‘shut up.’
After watching him march up to the 18th hole on the Ocean Course among throngs of adoring fans cheering him on, and even more sports fans looking up his fasting secrets and googling his special brand of coffee afterward, it seemed as if ‘Lefty’ was laying down the foundation for the perfect final act in a superbly celebrated career.
But instead of defending his Wanamaker Trophy, here we are.
This weekend’s PGA tournament will be the second major Mickelson’s skipped this year after his divisive comments about Saudi Arabians, coming on the heels of his fight with the PGA over the LIV golf league. The six-time major -winner described his rationale for joining the Saudis in the development of their new league as one where he discussed some of the human rights incidents he had a problem with, but that his rift with the PGA was so bad, that he needed to deal with the Saudis in order to leverage some power over the PGA. The entire exchange with journalist Alan Shipnuck—who leaked the comments from a book he’s writing on the golfing legend—came across as evidence of the calculating manipulator that some claim Mickelson really is, while simultaneously angering both sides of the golfing war.
Others—and plenty of his fans—feel that Phil’s been made into a scapegoat for the cancel culture and the PGA’s wrath for disloyalty.
It’s probably a bit of both.
Phil Mickelson’s certainly faced controversy before—such as his gambling debts, the money laundering incident in 2015, and his complaints about PGA tour policy and rules, including wanting to exit the PGA due to their “obnoxious greed.” But throughout it all, Mickelson’s fans have defended their guy as the Teflon king has managed to shrug these irritations off.
But the LIV golf league-Saudi comments have stuck. The damage has been so draining that his seemingly infallible endorsement foundation has crumbled underneath him, losing Amstel Light, Workday and KPMG in swift succession, with Callaway hitting the pause button on their lifetime contract with the 51-year-old.
“Some of his views on how the Tour could be run, should be run, [there’s] been a lot of disagreement there,” Tiger Woods said, via the New York Post. “But…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. Obviously, we’re going to have differences of opinions, how he sees the Tour, and we’ll go from there.”
It’s a shocking twist of fate for the only other five-plus major-winner on tour not named Tiger Woods. Surely, after being a hero in the game for decades and maintaining a mostly-sterling reputation, Phil Mickelson’s legacy cannot end on this note?
“We’re in a cancel culture right now,” said Webb Simpson, who is good friends with Mickelson, according to ESPN. “If you say one thing, or somebody digs up something in your past, they cancel you. There have been many situations out here, and in sports, where a player might have done something wrong, sure we can all agree, but I would rather be in an environment where it’s a forgiveness culture, not a cancel culture.”
The reigning PGA champion has been on hiatus since February when he issued a statement of apology about his offensive comments, but also a desire to take a break from golf to reassess. And it doesn’t look like things will become any easier for the famous golfer, with another unflattering book coming out on him, by gambler Billy Walters and co-written by Armen Keteyian.
“I hope he does come back, and I’m ready for him to come back,” said Harris English, who, as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, worked with Mickelson, who served as vice-captain. “Golf needs him back. I hope he’s very gracious in his return. I’m sure he’s missed it as well. He’s one of the most competitive guys and loves playing golf tournaments and loves trying to win golf tournaments.”
Phil Mickelson’s certainly earned plenty of detractors since the PGA fallout—including Rory McIlroy—but he still retains plenty of fans and supportive peers within the game, such as Web Simpson and Charlie Hoffman.
“Obviously, there were some things he said that people didn’t like,” said fellow golfer and Mickelson friend, Hoffman. “It is what it is. You can’t take that back. He’s a leader in this game, and unfortunately, he stuck his neck out and it got chopped off. Hopefully, he learned from it, and everybody respects him and cheers him on.”
Surely this isn’t the end of Phil Mickelson’s storied legacy? There’s no question it will remain tarnished, but will this be how his career ends? There’s no doubt that his absence is heavily felt in the game.
Only Lefty can determine his final act. It would be depressing to end on this note. The golfing world is waiting to see how Mickelson will choose to define his swan song.
In the meantime, the PGA Championship starts on Thursday, May 19.