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Two-time PGA Championship winner Dave Stockton said at the Champions Dinner ahead of the season’s second major on Wednesday that there was no missing Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson, who won last year, decided not to participate in the tournament. He had been criticized for his comments about Saudi Arabia and his criticism of the PGA Tour as he appears to be preparing to play in the rival Saudi-backed golf league.
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“It was a fun night. Phil didn’t miss. I think Phil would have been a big distraction if he was here,” Stockton said. “The story here this week is the PGA.”
Mickelson brushed off the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Turkey and hit out at the PGA Tour for their so-called “odious greed”. The comments about Khashoggi were revealed in an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Alan Shipnuck. He launched the PGA Tour in an interview with Golf Digest.
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Stockton, 80, won the PGA Championship in 1970 over Bob Murphy and Arnold Palmer and in 1976 over Raymond Floyd and Don January. It is the only major he has won in his professional career.
Mickelson would have hosted the event and picked out a giveaway for the players. The PGA of America chose the giveaway instead. Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington, Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem, Mark Brooks and Jeff Sluman were among the former champions who attended the dinner.
Stockton lamented the dinner turnout compared to the Masters dinner.
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“That’s what it should be,” he said. “I don’t quite understand why because I think it’s very important for us as champions to come back.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.