May 13, 2022 - Sports

Defending champion Phil Mickelson drops out of PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson at the PIF Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
Phil Mickelson. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

Legendary golfer Phil Mickelson withdrew from the PGA Championship, keeping himself on hiatus from professional golf, tournament organizers announced on Friday.

Why it matters: Mickelson stepped away from golf after he made comments about Saudi Arabia and human rights abuses that he said he thought were off the record.

  • The PGA said that "we would have welcomed him to participate."

Flashback: Mickelson stepped away from golf in February after comments he made about Saudi Arabia came to light in a report by ESPN.

  • In the biography about him, Mickelson said that he was involved in a potential new Saudi-backed golf league, despite the country's human rights abuses, Axios' Ivana Saric writes.

What he said: "They killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights," Mickelson told the biography's author in an interview, per ESPN. "They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates."

  • Mickelson apologized for the comments, saying he thought he was speaking off the record.
  • He said the "pressure and stress" of golf impacted him at a "deeper level."
  • "I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.”

Of note: Mickelson is just the third PGA champion who will not defend his title over the last 75 years, per AP.

  • Tiger Woods didn't defend his crown in 2008 due to knee surgery.
  • Ben Hogan couldn't play in 1949 after "recovering from his car getting struck by a bus," per AP.
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