Reigning champion Phil Mickelson, who hasn’t played since releasing controversial comments on the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, has retired from the PGA championship, the PGA of America announced on Friday.
The 51-year-old left-handed American became the oldest winner in golf history last year when he won the PGA on Kiawah Island for his sixth career major title.
But it hasn’t sounded since January after his remarks to author Alan Shipnuck in support of Saudi-backed rival on the US PGA Tour went public in February.
Mickelson, a 45-time winner of the PGA Tour in the United States, did not play in last month’s Masters for the first time since 1994 and has not entered the PGA Championship for the first time since he debuted in 1993.
It is the first year Mickelson has missed two majors since 1993, when he hasn’t played in the US or British Open.
If Mickelson had played at the Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he would have faced questions about his role with a Saudi group he called “scary” with a “horrible human rights record.”
Mickelson admitted he was willing to overlook issues like the murder of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi to gain influence on the PGA tour in the US.
“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has retired from the PGA championship,” the PGA of America said in a statement.
“Phil is the reigning champion and currently eligible to be a PGA Life member and we would have welcomed him to participate.
“We wish Phil and Amy the best and look forward to his return to golf.”
Mickelson, ranked 58th in the world, apologized after his comments were made public, saying his experience with LIV Golf was “very positive” and calling those he worked with “supportive” and “visionaries”. although the sponsors ditched him and he started a hiatus saying he would “desperately need some time”.
When, or if, Mickelson will return to PGA events is unclear.
The LIV Golf series opening in London next month features eight events this year, four at US venues, but no player names have been revealed.
The US PGA Tour said earlier this week that it has turned down all requests from tour members to play at the LIV London event, which will be played opposite the US PGA’s Canadian Open.
At the center of the controversy is Mickelson, who had the support of other players in February after asking for his apologies.
“I don’t think his entire career or all of his legacy needs to change due to a couple of comments,” reigning US Open Spanish champion Jon Rahm said of Mickelson.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy also lent his support to Mickelson, though like Rahm he turned down the LIV Golf circuit.
“The whole situation is unfortunate,” McIlroy said. “Phil wants to come back. I think the players want to see him again. He did a great job on the game of golf.
“We should be allowed to ask for forgiveness and for people to forgive us and move on. We hope that people welcome him and are happy that he is back. “
Other players had a firmer message for those backing the LIV Golf series, fed up with questions about the up and coming group.
“If you want to go, go,” said 2017 PGA championship winner Justin Thomas. “A lot of guys have been behind the scenes saying, ‘I’m going, I’m doing this.’ Then just go. “