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Phil Mickelson will not defend his title PGA Championship this year amid fallout from his comments about Saudi Arabia and his ties to the rival Saudi-funded golf league, the PGA of America announced on Friday.
The organization was informed that Mickelson was withdrawing from the tournament even though the PGA welcomed his participation. Mickelson becomes only the third PGA champion not to defend his title in the past 75 years.
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“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has retired from the PGA Championship,” said a PGA statement mentioned. “Phil is the defending champion and currently eligible for PGA Life Membership, and we would have welcomed him to participate. We wish Phil and Amy the best and look forward to his return to golf.”
At 50, Mickelson became the oldest champion in 161 years of major tournaments, but the four-time PGA Tour winner hasn’t played since Feb. 6 after accusing the PGA Tour of “abhorrent greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
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Two weeks later, in an excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s unauthorized biography to be published next week, Mickelson revealed how he had worked behind the scenes to promote the rival league funded by the Public Investment Fund and run by Greg Norman.
He also appeared to dismiss Saudi Arabia’s human rights atrocities, including the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashogg.
After sparking a fierce backlash and the loss of sponsors, Mickelson apologized and called his comments “reckless”.
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The PGA announced this week that it would not grant releases to players wishing to participate in the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational next month, citing “the best interests of the PGA Tour and its players”.
“We have informed those who have applied that their application has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour Tournament Rules. As such, Tour members are not permitted to participate in the Saudi Golf League London event in under our rules,” the memo reads.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.