A couple notable additions to next week’s PGA Championship field could bring more eyes to the sleepiest major in golf, as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are both listed to play. The last time golf fans saw Woods, he was limping around Augusta in his first return to competitive golf since a car accident nearly ended his career. Mickelson, on the other hand, hasn’t played in a tournament since his misguided rant about the Saudi golf league.
One would think the two most popular golfers of the past 20-25 years would be more polarizing figures due to Mickelson’s problematic Saudi league comments and recent revelations that he might be a degenerate gambler, and Woods’ past rampant adultery. But fans write off those transgressions as mere character flaws.
Woods has already been forgiven for his very public, very messy personal life, and now Mickelson is getting the same regenerative spa treatment. Seth Waugh, who runs the major stop, recently went on the 5 Clubs podcast and didn’t hesitate sharing his feelings about bringing back Lefty. Waugh said if Phil does play, the only issue is holding a news conference early enough in the week to avoid the tournament being overshadowed by a media circus..
“I hope what we can do is have that [the news conference] before the flag goes up,” Waugh said.
“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.”
What I find interesting about that quote isn’t Waugh either choosing his words poorly or hinting that Mickelson might currently be suspended by the PGA, it’s that he’s trying to “deliver a major championship, not a circus.”
The only scenario where Mickelson’s return to the links after an extended, maybe-not-self-imposed hiatus doesn’t devolve into Barnum & Bailey is if Woods is in contention. That’s not unreasonable considering the crowds he drew at the Masters, it’s just unlikely after how he looked in April.
If you remember, Augusta officials invited Mickelson to play, but he turned them down. At the time, I thought the decision to remain in exile was due to lingering shame and embarrassment from being an entitled blowhard who doesn’t give a shit about where the money comes from as long as it fuels his alleged gambling addiction.
Now, it looks like he simply didn’t want to be in Woods’ considerable shadow like he has been for most of his career. Who knows? Perhaps Mickelson isn’t a petulant diva and really wants to defend the major championship he won last year at age 50. Or it could be that his unauthorized biography — which was penned by the same reporter who broke the Saudi story — hasn’t dropped yet, and he knows he’s only got a finite amount of major opportunities left before he’s canceled outright.
The PGA Championship, being held at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, kicks off a week from Thursday, but apparently the doors could open as soon as Monday or Tuesday if the tournament director has any say in the matter — and if Mickelson’s presser is indeed its opening act.