Before the PGA Championships began, the annual Champions Dinner was held but a significant omission was made.
Controversial personality Phil Mickelson was not part of the team of former champions who attended a dinner at the main clubhouse of Southern Hills Country Club, the home of the 104th edition of the tournament this week.
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Mickelson hosted the dinner in less than two months of his 51st birthday after winning the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island and becoming the oldest major champion last year.
Mickelson has been in self-imposed exile since Greg Norman’s rivals commented on the PGA Tour behind LIV Golf Investments and the regime in Saudi Arabia.
According to former champion Dave Stockton, however, Mickelson’s absence did not make a single mention.
“Phil was not missed,” said Stockton, who won the PGA Championship in 1970 and 1976.
The dinner was attended by Stockton past champions Colin Marikawa, Jeff Sluman, Rory McIlroy, Mark Brooks, Jason Dafner, Rich Beam, Martin Kymer, Jason Dafner, Padrig Harrington and Keegan Bradley.
“So I talked last night,” Stockton said. “It was surreal for me. I used to be the youngest and now I’m obviously the oldest, which makes you move a bit at 80.
“And then at the end, Mark Brooks got up, they got him up, and he immediately commented to everyone on what was their worst shot and best shot.”
“Everyone had the same story and everything,” Stockton added. “It was fun.”
Stockton says he will be barracking for Northern Irish this weekend.
“I want to see McIlroy win his third PGA,” Stockton said. “His luck was very good – when we worked together he won the congressional and the open, where I won the second PGA. Assistant, and now he’s here where I won my first, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls some magic out of a hat.
“For another one I’ll route Jordan Spieth. I want to see him win a Grand Slam. McIlroy wouldn’t be more qualified to get it than to drop his Masters. Bugaboo and Jordan get PGA here.
“But who am I ignoring? I’m ignoring Colin. I’m ignoring Mercy. All these people. I think it’s going to be a race here in the end. You have to be lucky to win this week. You have to play really, really good golf. “
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