PGA boss in desperate talks with Mickelson

PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh remains in damage-control mode as he seeks confirmation from embattled Phil Mickelson about his return to competitive golf to defend what will be his 30th PGA Championship title in Oklahoma.

Mickelson, 51, has been a persona non grata in golf circles since his controversial thoughts on the Saudi-backed breakaway league were made public and saw him dropped by a number of personal sponsors.

Phil Mickelson Will Phil Mickelson defend his PGA Championship title? (Credit: PGA Tour)

And it is understood, the green jackets at Augusta National reacted by advising Mickelson not to attend the 2022 Masters, a major he’s won three times, for fear of a media circus. A thought shared it seems by PGA boss Seth Waugh.

It’s unclear whether Mickelson’s recent hiatus has been self-imposed or a result of a suspension but rumours now abound of a possible Mickelson return after his management team confirmed that ‘Lefty’ had registered to compete in the PGA Championship, as well as the LIV Golf Series which begins in London in June.

“I think he’s trying to figure out when the right time for him is,” Waugh told the ’5 Clubs Conversation’ podcast. “I think the game is trying to figure out the right time for him, too. How long is long enough? And is he ready mentally and physically to do it?”

If Mickelson does decide, and is permitted, to tee up for his title defence in Tulsa next week, then event organisers can expect a media circus like no other in the lead up to the tournament.

It is customary for the defending champion to speak to the media earlier in the week but given the increased attention on Mickelson of late, Waugh was adamant to ensure any potential Mickelson press conferences wouldn’t take away from the second major of the year.

“I hope what we can do is have that 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, and then once the flag goes up, it’s about the golf.”

“What we’re trying to do is deliver a major championship, not a circus. And so I would hope that he can avoid that, and everybody can avoid that. And we’re talking about golf shots instead of verbal gaffes once we get going.”

“But there’s certainly, I think, part of his thinking is, ‘Am I ready to face that glare and have that conversation and have all the answers that everybody is going to be looking for? And if I do it that week, am I then able to compete on a major championship venue under that kind of pressure with everything going on?’ But we would do everything we could to make it happen either before our week or very early in the week.”

“I’ve known Phil for 20-something years, and he’s a complicated guy with complicated thoughts and in a complicated situation. And so we’re all trying to figure out what’s best for him and frankly what’s best for the game and we’re going to keep having those conversations.”

Mickelson brilliantly captured a sixth major championship, and what was a record-setting second PGA Championship Wanamaker Trophy, 12 months ago at Kiawah Island aged 50 years, 11 months, and 7 days old.

Mickelson has played in 29 prior PGA Championships, making his debut with a T6th in 1993, winning a first PGA title in 2004, and a second a year ago.

As well, he was in the 2007 PGA Championship field when it was last staged at the Southern Hills course, finishing T32nd behind winner Tiger Woods.