PGA Championship week is a month away and the tournament’s Hall of Fame defending champion remains underground, out of sight but certainly not out of mind.
The idea that Phil Mickelson would skip the Masters – where he won three times – was shocking enough. But to possibly miss the tournament he won so gloriously a year ago is fraught with amazement.
To paraphrase a long-ago NFL Films clip of Vince Lombardi: What the hell is going on around here?
You know by now the mess Mickelson made for himself. The “obnoxious greed’’ comments about the PGA Tour. The interview in which he suggested he was willing to look past the human rights issues of the Saudi government and its backing of LIV Golf Investments in order to gain leverage against the PGA Tour, among other things.
The subsequent move by several sponsors to drop him, other PGA Tours to criticize him while pledging allegiance to the PGA Tour, and a lengthy apology he issued in which Mickelson said he would be stepping away for awhile.
That statement came on Feb. 22, which is nearly eight weeks ago. Mickelson has not played since the final round of the PIF Saudi International on Feb. 6, which is 10 weeks ago. What gives?
“He’s gone dark,’’ Bryson DeChambeau said at the Masters. “There’s no contact.’’
Masters chairman Fred Ridley said Mickelson was not “dis-invited’’ and that Mickelson texted him to say he would not play back in early March and that “I was willing to discuss that further with him if he’d like.’’
That suggests Mickelson could have played the Masters and chose to skip the major championship for the first time since 1994.
The PGA Tour will not say if he is suspended, as it does not disclose discipline, so there is that nagging detail that hovers over the situation, which obviously would answer a lot of questions about Mickelson’s absence. There has also been no word on if he’s had a discussion with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who said at the Players Championship that was a necessary step.
Then came Davis Love III’s comments prior to the RBC Heritage last week at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The two-time U.S. Ryder Cup captain who will captain the Presidents Cup team later this year in Charlotte wasn’t even asked about Mickelson, never mentioned his name. But his answer to a question about Fred Couples – and why he’s never been a Ryder Cup captain – was more than curious.
Couples has been a three-time winning Presidents Cup captain and an assistant on numerous teams, but never seriously considered for the Ryder Cup.
“I don’t know,’’ Love said. “Fred’s good in the locker room, in a practice round, as a captain, I think he would have been a great Ryder Cup captain. He could still be Ryder Cup captain. We may have to fill a gap somewhere now. Our order’s kind of messed up right now. So maybe Fred would be a great home game in New York.’’
Perhaps that comment goes right by if Love didn’t add the part about New York. He was referencing the 2025 Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black on Long Island, New York – where Mickelson has LONG been penciled in as the U.S. captain. Zach Johnson, who will assist Love this year at the Presidents Cup and is the 2023 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, was also vague when named to the post last month and asked about Mickelson.
This remains a perplexing situation. Mickelson, 51, undoubtedly caused quite a backlash. His comments about the PGA Tour were harsh, his own actions seemingly more “greedy’’ than anything else the Tour has done.
But he also has a pretty strong 30-year track record of popularity and performance. Six majors and 45 PGA Tour wins, numerous tales of generosity, a mentor to many players, as well as a big part of the U.S. effort to regroup and better prepare for the Ryder Cup.
Is there not a way back for Phil? If so, what is it?
Speaking of Tiger and the Presidents Cup
Love said there is a role for Tiger Woods on the U.S. Presidents Cup team if he wants it. And he also disclosed the Presidents Cup job was Woods’ if he wanted it after a successful captaincy in 2019, but Woods declined. Johnson might have been the Presidents Cup choice in his place, but it was determined he was needed for next year’s Ryder Cup. So Love was picked, with Woods’ influence.