Last year, Phil Mickelson shocked the golf world by winning the PGA Championship at the age of 50.
His decision not to defend that title may be even more surprising.
On Friday, the PGA of America announced that Mickelson had withdrawn from next week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills Golf Club in Tulsa, Okla.
“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship," the association said on Twitter. "Phil is the defending champion and currently eligible to be a PGA Life Member and we would have welcomed him to participate. We wish Phil and Amy the very best and look forward to his return to golf."
It marks the first time since 1954 that a player won’t defend a major title for a reason other than injury or illness. That year, Ben Hogan elected not to travel to play the Open Championship he captured in 1953.
Mickelson hasn’t played an event since the Saudi Invitational in February. He has been in a self-imposed exile from golf after he made harsh remarks about the Saudi Arabian backers of the new LIV Golf Series as well the PGA Tour, which he accused of greed.
Those came as part of a new book on Mickelson which is set to be released on Tuesday. The unauthorized publication also said Mickelson lost $40 million in betting over a four-year period.
The only sighting of the six-time major champion came two weeks ago when he was spotted playing a casual round at a golf course near San Diego. He appeared to have added some weight and grown a beard although his swing looked as solid as ever.
The next question becomes when will Mickelson, 51, tee it up again. It could be at the first event on the LIV Golf Series, which is set for June 9-11 in London, England. It is known that Mickelson applied to the PGA Tour for a release to play in that tournament but it was denied. Should he still compete in the event, the PGA Tour would likely take disciplinary action, which would lead to his suspension or expulsion from the tour.
The next major which Mickelson could play would be the U.S. Open, which would be June 16-19 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. He has registered for that tournament, the only major he has yet to win.