PGA back at Southern Hills as Mickelson skips title defense

The anticipation had been building the last few weeks for the PGA Championship, just like it was for the Masters. And just like the last major, the hype was more about who played than who had a chance to win.

Tiger Woods not only played Augusta National, he made the cut.

Phil Mickelson won’t even make it to the first tee at Southern Hills.

Six days before the opening round on the classic course in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mickelson decided not to defend his title and extend his three-month hiatus from golf.

And to think it was just one year ago when Mickelson celebrated one of the most stunning feats in 161 years of the majors. He won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island at age 50 to become golf’s oldest major champion.

The last PGA champion who didn’t defend was Woods in 2008 as he recovered from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. Before that it was Ben Hogan in 1949, who was nearly killed some four months earlier when a bus hit his car in west Texas.

Mickelson’s injuries were more self-inflicted. He kept everyone guessing when he signed up for the PGA Championship on April 25, even if it was a matter of procedure. His manager said Lefty was merely keeping his options open, and then he shut them down on Friday.

“I personally think it’s an unbelievable mental challenge to come back and play after what he’s put himself through. I don’t think it’s as easy as just getting back on the bike and arriving at a golf tournament and playing, said six-time major champion and CBS analyst Nick Faldo.

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