A few notable additions to next week’s PGA Championship field could draw more attention to golf’s sleepiest major, as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are both listed as players. The last time golf fans saw Woods, he was limping around Augusta on his first return to competitive golf since a car accident nearly ended his career. Mickelson, on the other hand, has not competed in a tournament since his misguided gossip about the Saudi Golf League.
One would think the two most popular golfers of the past 20-25 years would be more polarizing figures given Mickelson’s problematic comments about the Saudi league recent revelations that he may be a degenerate player, and Woods’ past rampant adultery. But fans write these transgressions off 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 big stop, recently went on the 5 Clubs podcast and didn’t hesitate to share his feelings about Lefty’s return. Waugh said if Phil plays, that only edition holds a press conference early enough in the week to avoid a media circus overshadowing the tournament.
“I hope we can have that [the news conference] before the flag goes up,” Waugh said.
“The idea is if he plays and if he is able and allowed to do it … he definitely has to face the media. But I hope it’s Monday or Tuesday… We’re trying to deliver a big championship, not a circus.”
What I find interesting about this quote isn’t that Waugh chooses his words poorly or suggests that Mickelson may be currently suspended from the PGA, but that he’s trying to “deliver a grand championship, not a circus.”
The only scenario where Mickelson’s return to the links after an extended, perhaps not self-imposed hiatus doesn’t progress to Barnum & Bailey is if Woods is in contention. That’s not unreasonable given the crowds he drew at the Mastersit’s just unlikely after he looked in April.
If you recall, officials invited Augusta Mickelson to play but he turned them down. At the time, I thought the decision to remain in exile was due to the enduring shame and embarrassment of being a braggart who doesn’t give a shit where the money comes from as long as it fuels his supposed gambling addiction.
Now it seems he just didn’t want to be in the sizable shadow of Woods, as he has been for most of his career. Who knows? Perhaps Mickelson isn’t a stubborn diva and really wants to defend the big championship he won last year at the age of 50. Or it could be that his unauthorized biography – written by the same reporter who published the Saudi story – hasn’t been published yet, and he knows he only has a limited number of big opportunities left before he canceled outright will.
The PGA Championship, being played at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, starts a week from Thursday, but apparently the doors could open as early as Monday or Tuesday if the tournament director has any say — and if Mickelson’s presser is actual its opening act.