There was no drama at the PGA Champions dinner.
The annual meal is supposed to be hosted by the previous year’s champion, but Phil Mickelson is absent from this year’s event in Southern Hills after winning the major at Kiawah Island a year ago. Mickelson, 51, has been in exile since rationalizing the atrocities of the Saudi regime – with their money behind a rival tour led by Greg Norman – in order to gain bargaining leverage with the PGA Tour, which he compared to a “dictatorship”.
At least one former champion had no problem with Mickelson’s absence on Tuesday night.
“It was a fun night. Phil didn’t miss it,” Dave Stockton, who won two PGA Championships in the 1970s, told Golf Channel. “I think Phil would have been a big distraction. he story here this week is the PGA.
The PGA of America took care of Mickelson’s duties, choosing a menu and providing gifts to those in attendance. According to Golf Channel, Stockton played a pivotal role in reinventing the dinner which is now primarily for former champions.
“Last year at Kiawah we had I think six or seven people in the room in addition to the players, and like we did (Tuesday) we sat down and they can’t separate us because he there are so many players, former champions, it was unbelievable,” Stockton said. “We finished the night and everyone stayed. I think that blew the PGA officers away.
It was thought Mickelson would use the PGA Championship to make a comeback after being widely celebrated for winning the event last year at the age of 50. Instead, he remains out of public view as the second major of the season goes by without him.
“It should be a party,” Rory McIlroy said earlier in the week. “He won a major championship at 50. This was perhaps his last big, big moment in the game of golf. I think he should be here this week and celebrate the monumental achievement he made last year. It’s unfortunate. It’s sad.”
New York Post