Augusta, Georgia – Halfway down the first fairway of Augusta National stands a massive wooden scoreboard that captures the tours of each Masters participant – 91 of them this year.
For the first time since 1994, Phil Mickelson is not among them. Instead, the three-time winner (2004, 2006 and 2010) and longtime fan favorite is listed aside in the “Past Champions Don’t Play” section. He is slightly taller than Jack Nicklaus, 82.
There are several places where Mickelson, 51, appeared more at home than Augusta. It’s not just that green jackets have won or 12 extra places in the top 10.
Mickelson almost always enjoyed the event – from the game to the huge galleries he would have attracted, even if he was far from fighting (he did not finish in the top 20 since 2015), to wearing a green jacket to the local Krispy Kreme after him victory in 2010.
When Masters is part of the Golf Festival, few celebrate it more than Mickelson.
“Phil has been a real fixture here at the Masters for many, many years,” said Australian National Chairman Fred Ridley. “He was a big part of our story.”
As for this Masters, it is Mickelson who is the story. He chose not to participate as he withdrew from the game and public life following conflicting comments he made in February about partnering with the Saudi government to form a rival PGA Tour called the Saudi Super League.
“They are terrible [expletives] to participate, ”Mickelson told veteran golf reporter Alan Shipnak. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Hashogs also have a terrible reputation in the field of human rights. People are shot there for being gay. Knowing all this, why should I consider it? Because it’s a unique opportunity to change the way the PGA Tour works. “
Mickelson spoke the quiet part loudly, but the comments were still chilled and stale. Was it worth challenging the PGA Tour – which made Mickelson incredibly wealthy – willing and conscious to collaborate with the people he opposes?
The reaction to his comments was quick. Condemnations prevailed, sponsors suspended the partnership, and other players (John Ram, Bryson DeChambo) either reiterated their allegiance to the PGA and / or publicly disagreed with Mickelson.
“It seems like a pretty beautiful, you know, selfish expression,” Justin Thomas said.
A few days later Mickelson apologized.
“While it doesn’t look that way now, given my recent comments, my actions throughout this process have always been in the interests of golf, my peers, sponsors and fans,” Mickelson said Feb. 22. “… It was reckless, I offended people and I am very sorry for my choice of words. I am very disappointed and will make every effort to think about it and learn from it. “
Shortly thereafter, Mickelson wrote a message to Ridley and told him he would not be participating in the Masters, despite being invited as a permanent champion and current PGA Championship winner.
For the masters, his place remained independent of comments.
“We didn’t deny Phil,” Ridley said Wednesday. “… I thanked him for his courtesy when he let me know. I told him we appreciated it, and said I was definitely ready to discuss it further with him if he wanted to. He thanked me. We had a very cordial exchange. “
Given Mickelson’s victory in the PGA Championship less than a year ago, he cannot be ruled out as a legitimate contender for the fourth green jacket. If not, he would still be considered the main attraction of the fans.
However, no one knows when he will return to competitive golf.
Ridley did not take a specific position on Mickelson’s hostility with the PGA Tour, only saying that “our mission is to always act in the interests of the game, in whatever form they are taken.” I think golf is in a good place now. “
Mickelson’s decision not to play was immediately after the comments and six weeks before the tournament. As for purely public relations, he could come here and begin the process of postponing the issue (if that’s his goal).
There would be a press conference and maybe some fans would refuse, but many would most likely just encourage his presence and forget what was said. It could also be pushed to the background if so much focus on Tiger Woods ’return from the horrific 2021 car accident.
However, Mickelson may not have to worry about that.
“Over the last 10 years, I have felt pressure and stress that are slowly affecting me on a deeper level,” Mickelson said in a statement in February. “I know I wasn’t the best, and I desperately need some time to prioritize those I love the most and become the person I want to be.”
This is, of course, more important than the 28th trip here in a row – and the 30th in general, considering his amateur days.
“He made a personal decision,” Ridley said. “I don’t know anything but that. … I, of course, wish, and we, of course, wish him the best in solving the problems he is dealing with now. “
Augusta National may have often been the perfect place for Mickelson to flourish. Game. Galleries. Green jackets.
But not this year. Phil is not here. When he will return is anyone’s guess.