There was no drama at the PGA Champions dinner.
The annual meal is supposed to be hosted by the previous year’s champ, but Phil Mickelson is absent from this year’s event at Southern Hills after winning the major at Kiawah Island a year ago. Mickelson, 51, has been in exile since rationalizing the atrocities of the Saudi regime — with their money behind a rival tour run by Greg Norman — in order to gain negotiating leverage with the PGA Tour, which he likened to a “dictatorship.”
At least one former champion had no issue with Mickelson’s absence on Tuesday night.
“It was a fun evening. Phil was not missed,” Dave Stockton, who won a pair of PGA Championships in the 1970s, told Golf Channel. “I think Phil would have been a big distraction. The story here this week is the PGA.”
The PGA of America handled the duties for Mickelson, picking a menu and providing gifts for those in attendance. According to Golf Channel, Stockton played a pivotal role in reimagining the dinner which is now primarily for past champions.
“At Kiawah last year we had I think six or seven people in the room besides just players, and like we did (Tuesday), we sat around and they can’t separate us out because there’s so many players, former champions, that it was unbelievable,” Stockton said. “We ended the night, and everybody stayed. I think it blew the PGA officers away.”
It was thought that Mickelson would use the PGA Championship to make his return after he was widely celebrated for winning the event last year at the age of 50. Instead, he remains out of the public eye as the season’s second major goes on without him.
“This should be a celebration,’’ Rory McIlroy said earlier in the week. “He won a major championship at 50 years old. It was possibly his last big, big moment in the game of golf. I think he should be here this week and celebrating what a monumental achievement he achieved last year. It’s unfortunate. It’s sad.’’