Sport: Why is Phil Mickleson not playing at The Masters? Full Saudi Arabia backlash explained

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Phil Mickelson has won three Green Jackets © GETTY Phil Mickelson has won three Green Jackets

Phil Mickelson has been an ever-present at The Masters since making his debut at Augusta as an amateur way back in 1991, but he won't feature this week following what has been a controversial few months for 'Lefty'. Only Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer have won more Masters titles than Mickelson.

If it wasn't for Woods, Mickelson would almost certainly have won more majors in his career. He rolled back the years at the 2021 PGA Championships to become the oldest golfer to win a major.

And there was genuine excitement of Mickelson heading into the 2022 season with a chance of winning his first Green Jacket since 2010. But his 2022 season has ground to a halt following his controversial stance on the Saudi Golf League.

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Back in May last year, news broke that a number of the world's best players were offered between $30-$50million to break from the PGA Tour with Mickelson's price coming in at a whopping $100m. The new professional golf league backed by Saudi Arabia was officially announced in October with further promises made to offer huge prize funds for those competing.

The PGA Tour reacted angrily by enforcing 'lifetime bans' to those who choose to depart and compete in the Saudi-backed league. And Mickelson soon - inadvertently - became the face of the players looking to form a breakaway group after accusing the PGA Tour of "obnoxious greed".

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Phil Mickelson's last win came in 2010 © GETTY Phil Mickelson's last win came in 2010

He had reportedly been working closest with Greg Norman, the new commissioner of the league. But the American golf icon soon found himself in hot water after an interview dropped where he admitted to using the Saudi Golf League as a way to leverage against the PGA Tour.

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"They execute people over there for being gay," Mickelson said. "Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates."

His remarks drew strong criticism from his peers such as Rory McIlroy who branded Mickelson as "egotistical" and "ignorant". Mickelson would later release a lengthy statement apologising for his comments and planned to take a self-imposed break from the sport, but made no apology directly to the PGA Tour.

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A host of sponsors soon cancelled their deals with Mickelson including Callaway, who signed the American to a lifetime deal back in 2017. There was some suggestion that Mickelson would return for The Masters, but he was included on the 'Past Champions Not Playing' list.

Augusta chairman Fred Ridley has since confirmed that Mickelson had in fact turned down an invitation to compete at this year's Masters.

"We did not disinvite Phil," said Ridley. "He made a personal decision and I don't know anything beyond that."

He added: "Phil reached out to me, I think in late February, early March and let me know he did not intend to play. That was by way of text. "I thanked him for his courtesy of letting me know and told him I was willing to discuss that further if he liked and we had a very cordial exchange.

"Phil has been a real fixture here for many, many years and a big part of our history and we certainly wish him the best in working through the issues he has now."

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