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The PGA Championship is about a week away from teeing off and the possibility of Phil Mickelson returning to the golf course for the event raised eyebrows for PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh.
It’s unclear whether Mickelson will actually participate but he was listed in the field along with Tiger Woods, according to PGATour.com. “Lefty” applied to play in the major and also LIV Golf’s first event next month. His links to the Saud-funded rival golf league and his published remarks about Saudi Arabia have been controversial. He hasn’t played in an event since February.
Mickelson won the PGA Championship last year – the second time he’s won the event.
Waugh said in a recent interview on the “Five Clubs” podcast he hopes to avoid a chaotic atmosphere at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I hope what we can do is have that [the press conference] before the flag goes up,” Waugh said, via The Comeback. “The idea is if he does play, and if he’s able to and allowed to… he would certainly have to face the media. But I hope it’s Monday or Tuesday… What we’re trying to do is deliver a major championship, not a circus.”
Mickelson drew chaotic crowds at the PGA Championship last year in South Carolina, which frustrated Brooks Koepka and forced the PGA to apologize.
Mickelson created some controversy when his remarks about Saudi Arabia were published in an interview with author Alan Shipnuck, whose book, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar” is scheduled for a release this month.
Shipnuck posted a story based on the phone interview on “The Firepit Collective” website.
“They’re scary mother——s to get involved with,” Mickelson reportedly said. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.
“They’ve been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the Saudi golf league] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.”
Mickelson would later apologize, saying, “I’m beyond disappointed and will make every effort to self-reflect and learn from this.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.