Discussions surrounding the absence of disgraced golfing superstar Phil Mickelson eclipse the start of the PGA Championship. "Lefty" has disappeared, the darling of the audience has become a stimulus figure, ruining its reputation. The debate is primarily about Saudi Arabia.
Even Tiger Woods eventually had to address the elephant in the room. Of course, it's "always disappointing," criticized the golf superstar before the start of the PGA Championship, "when the defending champion isn't here." What was meant was Phil Mickelson, who has remained silent for weeks. And yet these days everything revolves around the exceptional talent who has fallen out of favor.
It was only a year ago that Mickelson was the celebrated hero. As the oldest major winner, he delighted the fans. But in the meantime "Lefty" has disappeared, the darling of the audience has become an irritating figure and its reputation has been ruined. His cancellation as last year's winner for the tournament in Tulsa polarized, but above all the heated discussion is about a lot of money from Saudi Arabia.
A new multi-billion tournament series financed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund is dividing the golfing world. Statements like those by organizer Greg Norman, with which he recently downplayed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul ("Every one of us makes mistakes"), caused a shake of the head. The fact that the PGA Tour virtually forbids its professionals from participating in the competing series clearly shows the hardened fronts.
And Michaelson? He should be one of the central figures of the new tour - and certainly not only because the excessive gambler is said to have gambled away 40 million dollars in recent years. But since a few weeks ago, in a conversation with a biographer, he had talked his head and neck about the Saudis themselves ("scary motherfuckers") and the PGA ("manipulative"), things have been quiet for the time being. The six-time major champion can thus avoid critical questions, but instead people talk about him.
"Phil said some things that many of us who are committed to the tour and the legacy of the tour have resisted," Woods said. There's "a lot of money out there," but it's "just like any other sport. You have to go out there and earn it." Mickelson has his opinion on "where the game of golf is going to go. I have mine."
Unlike the German golf pro Martin Kaymer, who is also associated with the Saudi tour but initially started at the Southern Hills Country Club, Woods and numerous other stars are on the US tour. The debate superimposes the start of the second major this year. Where Mickelson is watching the tournament is not known.