A trio of the world's top golfers — including Tiger Woods — said Tuesday that they wished Phil Mickelson were at Southern Hills Country Club this week to defend his PGA Championship title.
Mickelson took an unexpected two-stroke victory over South African Louis Oosthuizen at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina in 2021.
“This should be a celebration, right?” said Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, the world's #7 player. “He won a major championship at 50 years old. It was possibly his last big, big moment in the game of golf. I think he should be here this week and celebrating what a monumental achievement he achieved last year.
The tournament begins Thursday at the course in Tulsa, Okla.
“It's unfortunate,” McIlroy added. “It's sad. Yeah, I don't know what else I can say.”
Mickelson, 51, decided not to participate as he continues to cope with the controversial comments he made in February about the PGA Tour and a fledgling rival tour funded in part by Saudi Arabia. He hasn't played since, even skipping the Masters.
“Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the Tour and committed to the legacy of the Tour have pushed back against, and he's taken some personal time, and we all understand that,” Tiger Woods said. “But as we all know, 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.”
Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America, said Mickelson's representatives notified him Friday that he wasn't ready to play.
“Obviously we respect that. We understand it,” Waugh said. “We wish nothing but the best for him and (wife) Amy. He's going through a lot. I don't really have a whole lot more to say. We're disappointed he's not here, and again, wish him all the best.”
Mickelson last played on the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, where he missed the cut. Mickelson said in a statement in February that he needed time away from golf and has been quiet since.
Jon Rahm, the #2 player in the world, said he respects Mickelson's decision.
“Phil has got to do what Phil has got to do,” Rahm said. “He's a good friend of mine. I can't remember the last time a major champion didn't defend a title.”
He added: “I would have liked to see him defend. I know he's played good here in the past. But again, he's got to do what he's got to do.”
The last player not to defend a major title was McIlroy, who skipped The Open Championship in 2015 because of an ankle injury.