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TULSA — Right here within the scorching hills of northeast Oklahoma, Phil Mickelson as soon as entered the gamers’ locker room on the finish of the 2001 U.S. Open and stood at a sink in entrance of a mirror at 0 for 33 as a professional in main tournaments, his face epitomizing that athletic mixture of spent and bummed.

Absolutely now for the 104th PGA Championship at this similar Southern Hills, he would seem for a mass feting at a fantastic 6 for 115 in majors, a curtain name to his historic bow at Kiawah Island in South Carolina final 12 months, the place giddy swarms with beery veins adopted golf’s oldest main winner ever up No. 18 beside the Atlantic.

As an alternative, whereas different defending champions have missed the defending half due to harm — Rory McIlroy on the 2015 British Open and Tiger Woods on the 2008 PGA, to call two — Mickelson has turn out to be the primary to overlook out as a result of he made some vile feedback about homicide and execution printed three months prior. It’s one other nadir in his newfound position as ignoble recluse who has missed each the Masters and the PGA in firestorm avoidance.

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As wrinkles go in an eccentric sport, it’s an outlier.

“This ought to be a celebration, proper?” McIlroy mentioned of Mickelson on Tuesday. “He received a serious championship at 50 years outdated. It was probably his final huge second within the sport of golf. He ought to be — I believe he ought to be right here this week and celebrating what a monumental achievement he achieved final 12 months. It’s unlucky. It’s unhappy. Yeah, I don’t know what else I can say.”

Right here, his shouting absence doubles because the “elephant within the room,” as PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh put it. Right here, different folks speak about him whereas he doesn’t speak about himself. Younger comer Viktor Hovland known as it “a weird scenario, that’s for certain.” Longtime major-chaser Rickie Fowler known as Mickelson’s self-inflicted plight “a tough go the previous few months, a troublesome scenario to be in,” and mentioned, “It’s unlucky that he didn’t really feel prefer it’s the place that he ought to be proper now’s right here.” Prime-shelf golfers akin to Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas mentioned gently that they actually didn’t have something to say.

Brooks Koepka — who tied for second, two photographs behind Mickelson, final 12 months and received this occasion in 2018 and 2019 amongst 4 main titles — went his standard imperturbable route.

“Not right here,” Koepka mentioned of Mickelson. “There’s actually not a lot else I can say.”

Just a few questions later, he did add one thing, which is that he anticipated extra of himself than tied for second. “Final 12 months I felt like [I] gave it away,” he mentioned. “I didn’t put any stress on him. I missed a two-foot putt on gap 4 or 3 or one thing like that and didn’t put any stress all the way in which going by way of. Simply didn’t do something and simply handed it to him.”

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That mentioned, Mickelson nonetheless does get to maintain the 2021 title.

“Look,” mentioned Waugh, whose group runs the PGA Championship, “nobody was extra excited than us final 12 months when Phil had his epic win, proper? It’s wonderful. He’s executed one thing no person else has ever executed and win a serious at 50. It was one of many nice moments in golf, and we’ll by no means kind of neglect it. We actually seemed ahead to him defending. He’s not right here. …

“It’s his alternative. He and I’ve had some conversations earlier than, throughout and after, and I can actually say that on Friday his camp known as and mentioned he’s not able to play. Clearly, we respect that. We perceive it.”

In lacerating feedback made to Golf Digest in Saudi Arabia in early February, Mickelson referred to the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” and welcomed the possible rival Saudi tour as a mechanism for dislodging extra funds from the PGA Tour to the gamers. He emphasised media rights, together with that the tour can “cost firms to make use of [clips of] photographs I’ve hit.” He mentioned of the PGA Tour, “It’s the tour’s obnoxious greed that has actually opened the door for alternatives elsewhere.”

In self-damning feedback to author Alan Shipnuck uttered final November however printed later that month, Mickelson mentioned of Saudi Arabia: “They’re scary motherf—— to become involved with. We all know they killed [Jamal] Khashoggi” — the Saudi U.S. resident and Washington Publish columnist — “and have a horrible document on human rights. They execute folks over there for being homosexual. Realizing all of this, why would I even think about it? As a result of it is a once-in-a-lifetime alternative to reshape how the PGA Tour operates. They’ve been in a position to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm ways as a result of we, the gamers, had no recourse. As good a man as [PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan] comes throughout as, except you have got leverage, he received’t do what’s proper. And the Saudi cash has lastly given us that leverage. I’m unsure I would like [the Saudi venture] to succeed, however simply the concept of it’s permitting us to get issues executed with the [PGA] Tour.”

Chatting with reporters Tuesday, Tiger Woods mentioned: “Properly, it’s all the time disappointing when the defending champion’s not right here. Phil has mentioned some issues that I believe lots of us who’re dedicated to the tour and dedicated to the legacy of the tour have pushed again towards, and he’s taken some private time, and all of us perceive that.

“However I believe that a few of his views on how the tour could possibly be run, ought to be run … been lots of disagreement there. However as everyone knows, as knowledgeable, we miss him being out right here. I imply, he’s a giant draw for the sport of golf. He’s simply taking his time, and all of us want him the perfect when he comes again. Clearly, we’re going to have distinction of opinions, how he sees the tour, and we’ll go from there.”

Woods referred to the late Nineteen Sixties, when Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer spearheaded a break up from the PGA of America to kind a gamers tour. “I perceive totally different viewpoints,” Woods mentioned, “however I imagine in legacies. I imagine in main championships. I imagine in huge occasions, comparisons to historic figures of the previous. There’s loads of cash out right here. The tour is rising. Nevertheless it’s identical to every other sport. . . . It’s important to go on the market and earn it.”

To a query about whether or not he had contacted Mickelson, Woods mentioned: “I’ve not reached out to him. I’ve not spoken to him. Quite a lot of it has to do with, I believe, private points. It was our viewpoints of how the tour ought to be run and could possibly be run and what gamers are enjoying for and the way we’re enjoying for it. I’ve a totally totally different stance and so, no, I’ve not.”

The strangeness, and one other main, play on.

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