No Masters Music for Maestro Mickelson

First time absence from Augusta since 1994

Masters 2022 – Mickelson absent

Masters 2022 - Mickelson absent
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

What will do Phil next? 

Just when it seemed the ongoing tussle between Phil Mickelson and the PGA Tour could not reach another level — the stunning news, first posted by earlier this week, that the six-time major winner will not be competing in this year’s Masters provides yet another chapter in what is now becoming an issue with ongoing ripples that likely will extend far longer and deeper than expected.

Masters 2022 – Mickelson absent

As a three-time winner of the Masters, Mickelson has played in the event each year since 1995. Interestingly, though unrelated, if Tiger Woods, who is recovering from car accident surgery in 2021, also does not participate in the event it will mark the first time in decades that the two dominant superstars in the sport will both be on the sidelines in a championship each has played such pivotal past roles.

Mickelson has not played competitively since the Saudi International in early February and comments attributed to Lefty came to light after the event from an interview conducted last November with golf journalist Alan Shipnuck who is writing a biography on the golfer’s career.

To say the comments were seismic would be a gross understatement of massive proportions.

Masters 2022 - Mickelson absent
(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Masters 2022 – Mickelson absent

The World Golf Hall of Famer blasted the PGA Tour as a “dictatorship” and “obnoxiously greedy.” Phil has also stated a desire to use a potential courtship with the fledgling Saudi Arabian tour as a “leverage” point to make significant changes in how the PGA Tour operates and he claimed to have paid lawyers to draw up the Saudi league’s operating charter.

In addition, Mickelson noted the Saudis were “scary mother f***ers” who killed Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and had zero tolerance for gays and human rights.

Mickelson was incensed the comments were made public — stating conversations with Shipnuck were “off the record” — an assertion vehemently denied by Shipnuck.

Masters 2022 – Mickelson absent

Upon the public airing of those comments in February, Mickelson posted a nearly 600-word post via social media in which he apologized for his comments in a general manner and indicated he would be stepping away from the game in order to sort matters out. 

“I know I have not been my best and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be,” the 51-year-old stated.

The bigger question remains unanswered — is Phil’s sabbatical from professional golf self-imposed or was it enacted by the PGA Tour?

During The Players Championship, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan neither confirmd nor denied a suspension was imposed on Mickelson. The PGA Tour has steadfastly never publicly stated when fines or suspensions are enacted — although Monahan did indicate at The Players the matter could be discussed through the Players Advisory Board which provides feedback on all matters related to the PGA Tour.

Masters 2022 – Mickelson absent

Complicating matters — Phil has since gone silent regarding the exact specifics tied to his sabbatical.

Mickelson did not play in the Tour’s flagship event at TPC Sawgrass for the first time since 2003. But Lefty’s pulling out of the Masters only begs the question — was the decision reached by Phil alone or was it something carried out by officials at Augusta either unilaterally or in concert with the PGA Tour?

The Masters is organized by Augusta National Golf Club. It is not under the domain of the PGA Tour or any other outside organization. The Masters is strictly an invitational event under total control of the club. 

The bigger question, prior to this week’s announcement that Mickelson would not be competing, was when Mickelson would return to competitive golf. There was also the possibility Mickelson would stage a press conference — away from any professional golf event to eliminate the distraction to that event and the players. And to once and for all deal with the questions raised and then have the matter move to his rear-view mirror. This would be similar to what Tiger Woods did on February 19, 2010 regarding questions impacting his personal life and marital infidelities.

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The general belief was that Augusta was an event that Mickelson would play given his stellar record there and the fact his competitive days are still active as witnessed in being the first 50-year-old to win a major event with last year’s epic triumph at the PGA Championship at Kiawah.

Sources have stated Masters officials were not especially keen on having the Mickelson / PGA Tour saga vetted out during the event thereby drawing attention away from the season’s first major. There remains a myriad of questions that inevitably will be asked by assembled media whenever Mickelson does surface again.

Without question, with Mickelson in the field there would be questions asked of Masters Chairman Fred Ridley who provides a press conference during Masters week in regards to the event and the state of the game. Undoubtedly, Masters officials would not be keen to have time and energy be devoted to topics that have nothing to do with the event that week.

Interestingly, during Monahan’s comments at The Players he indicated he is open to conversing with Phil and suggested the two meet to discuss Mickelson’s past comments and thereby chart a pathway going forward. Whether such a meeting between the two is a precondition to when Mickelson will compete again on the PGA Tour remains to be seen.

With Mickelson no longer in the Masters field — the next key question is whether Phil will defend his PGA Championship title at Southern Hills in Oklahoma come May? What seemed highly improbable can no longer be deemed out of the question. Would Mickelson voluntarily remain on the sidelines for an event he so passionately earned last year in South Carolina?

Masters 2022 - Mickelson absent
(Adam Davy/PA)

Masters 2022 – Mickelson absent

There are also spillover long term issues. Do comments made by Mickelson impact being selected for a future Captaincy for Team USA in the Ryder Cup? 

Monahan stated emphatically any PGA Tour player opting to play on the Saudi tour would be banned from Tour events. Going further, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh stated that since PGA Tour members are also members of the PGA of America, any action taken by players to jump to the Saudi side would therefore lose their membership to the PGA of America and with that consideration for Ryder Cup selection — including the Captaincy.

Certainly when Mickelson does resume playing competitive golf the issue of how the impact of such past comments will weigh on others involved with Team USA’s connection to the Ryder Cup Matches.

Phil has been a long-time staple in the bi-annual matches dating back to 1995 and his future selection as Captain was preordained to happen at some point prior to when the current controversy exploded. Being selected Captain would be the final exclamation point of success for the Mickelson golf portfolio.

Now what seemed certain is undetermined and even in jeopardy.

Like any riveting mystery novel the pages keep turning rapidly — awaiting the next shocking moment to appear.

What will Phil do next?

Inquiring eyes are watching, wondering and waiting.

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