‘It’s unfortunate, it’s sad’: Rory McIlroy laments Phil Mickelson’s PGA Championship absence

Mickelson will not defend his title as his extended hiatus from the PGA Tour continues following his controversial comments about a Saudi-backed breakaway league

Tom Kershaw
Tuesday 17 May 2022 16:59
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<p>Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson play alongside each other in 2020</p>

Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson play alongside each other in 2020

Rory McIlroy said it’s “sad” and “unfortunate” that Phil Mickelson is not at Southern Hills to defend the PGA Championship after his extraordinary victory last year.

The 51-year-old, who became golf’s oldest major champion when he triumphed at Kiawah Island, has not played competitively since his controversial comments regarding a Saudi-backed golf league.

McIlroy labelled Mickelson “naive, selfish, egotistical, ignorant” after the six-time major champion admitted he was well aware of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses but was still happy to use the rival league as leverage against the “obnoxious greed” of the PGA Tour.

The remarks led to Mickelson taking an extended hiatus from golf while several of his long-standing sponsors opted to cut ties with him.

McIlroy, who is chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council, softened his stance when questioned about Mickelson’s absence on Tuesday ahead of the year’s second major.

“This should be a celebration, right? He won a major championship at 50 years old. It was possibly his last big, big moment in the game of golf,” said McIlroy.

“He should be. I think he should be here this week and celebrating what a monumental achievement he made last year. It’s unfortunate. It’s sad. I don’t know what else I can say.”

McIlory, who claimed the Saudi breakaway league was “dead in the water” after Mickelson’s comments saw several players who’d been flirting with the proposition instead pledge their commitment to the PGA Tour, admitted that he might have been “a little presumptuous at that point”.

“It seems like it’s still going,” he said. “Greg [Norman] and everyone behind it are very determined. I think we’re just going to have to see how it plays out. Guys are going to make decisions. Honestly, it’s going to shape the future of professional golf one way or another, so I think we’re just going to have to see how it all shakes out.”

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