The season's second major gets under way on Thursday, as the US PGA Championship starts at Southern Hills Country Club.

Despite being included in the field for the tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma, reigning champion Phil Mickelson will not be on hand to defend his title.

Mickelson, who became the oldest player to win a major when he triumphed at the US PGA in South Carolina last year, is continuing his break from golf, which came after criticism over his comments regarding the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway Golf Super League.

While the GSL cloud hangs over the heads of certain players who have requested releases from the PGA Tour, the focus this week will be on claiming the huge prize of a major title.

Tiger Woods is back, after his remarkable Masters return, while world number one Scottie Scheffler is on the hunt for another major title following his success at Augusta.

Stats Perform's experts have taken a look at some of the likely candidates.

No stopping Scottie – Ben Spratt

Only three men have won both the Masters and the US PGA in the same year, with Jack Nicklaus the last to do so in 1975. That is the esteemed company Augusta champion Scheffler hopes to be keeping – and you would be bold to back against him this season. Scheffler ended 2021 ranked 12th in the world and still waiting on his first PGA Tour victory. He has since won four times, including at the Masters, to become world number one and the clear man to beat. The 25-year-old has two top-10 finishes in both entries at this tournament and played a practice round at Southern Hills earlier this month to prepare himself for another tilt.

Rahm makes timely return to form – Patric Ridge

World number two Jon Rahm will tee off in Oklahoma on Thursday on the back of winning the Mexico Open last time out. Rahm has finished in the top 15 in six of the 11 competitions he has featured in this season. Prior to his win in Mexico, the Spaniard's putting had been letting him down, but the rest of his game has been top-notch. Rahm's strokes gained off the tee is a PGA Tour-leading 1.311, while his strokes gained tee to green also ranks first (1.808). The 27-year-old finished T8 in this major last year and his best result was T4 back in 2018 – he could be celebrating back-to-back wins on Sunday.

First major to get Burns treatment – John Skilbeck

Sam Burns missed the cut at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but we should forget that; one bad round cost him and there have been very few of those this season from the 25-year-old. Besides, he followed that 73 with a gutsy 67. Admittedly, Burns also missed the cut at the Masters, but he has titles at the Sanderson Farms Championship and the Valspar Championship in the current campaign, successfully defending his title at the latter after a breakthrough win last year. He has achieved six top-10 finishes in the 2021-22 season, has banked almost $4.5million, and sits second in the FedEx Cup standings. The PGA Championship can throw up funky winners and Burns might just be ready to join the list. He has yet to challenge in a major but that surely must change soon.

Rory can end major drought – David Segar

It is eight years since Rory McIlroy won the last of his four majors at the PGA Championship, but the Northern Irishman can end that drought this week. He produced a late surge to finish second in The Masters, with a stunning Sunday 64. McIlroy is third on the PGA Tour for shots gained off the tee. His two scores of 68 over the weekend earned fifth place at the recent Wells Fargo Championship, setting him up nicely for another major challenge.

Spieth slam? Oh, it's on… – Pete Hanson

Is this the week Jordan Spieth completes the Grand Slam? A tie for 71st and 30th in his last couple of attempts don't make for particularly good omens but Spieth is a player reborn. Having slipped as low as 92nd in the Official World Golf Rankings after last year's Farmers Insurance Open, Spieth has gone about climbing back into the world's top 10 and was back among the winners' circle at the RBC Heritage last month. A missed cut at the Masters was not the start he envisaged to major season but Spieth is at his best with his back against the wall and can firmly be in contention to lift the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday.

Tiger Woods says he got "a lot stronger" since making an incredible comeback at The Masters as he prepares for the US PGA Championship this week.

The 15-time major champion returned to action at Augusta 15 months after he was involved in a car accident that left him with serious leg and foot injuries.

Woods almost lost a leg in that crash, but made the cut in the first major of the year before falling away to finishing 47th.

The legendary American has not played in a tournament since then and says he was understandably in pain after four rounds in Georgia.

Woods is feeling much better as he gears up for another major at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa.

He said: "I've gotten a lot stronger since the Masters. We went back to work on Tuesday [after the Masters]. Monday was awful. I did nothing and Tuesday was leg day. So, we went right back after it."

Woods knows he will never be fully mobile after such a horrific accident.

"Am I ever going to have full mobility? No. Never again," Woods said.

"But I'll be able to get stronger. It's going to ache, but that's the way it's going to be

"I'm excited about [the US PGA]. I'm not going to play that much going forward, so anytime I do play, it's going to be fun to play and to compete. There are only so many money games you can play at home."

Joe LaCava, Woods' caddie, also provided an encouraging assessment of one of the all-time greats' condition.

"I think the endurance is there now. I don't think he's getting quite as tired as quickly." he said.

"Other than the fact he won here 15 years ago, I think it's the stamina and endurance thing that excites him the most."

Sam Horsfield scooped the third title of his DP World Tour career as the Englishman triumphed at the Soudal Open in Belgium.

The 25-year-old won two tournaments in three weeks in August 2020, and a closing three-under-par 68 at Antwerp's Rinkven International course gave him a two-shot triumph on Sunday.

Horsfield, who has spent much of his life living in the United States, has only recently returned to action after a three-month injury lay-off and this was just his second event on tour since January.

He looked sharp regardless of that long spell of inactivity, and it was a thrill to get over the line and clinch another trophy.

Horsfield battled playing partner Ryan Fox of New Zealand over the closing 18 holes, with Fox's challenge falling away as he made three bogeys in the closing six holes to finish with a 71.

At 13 under par for the week, Horsfield finished two shots clear of Fox and Germany's Yannik Paul, who shared second place. Paul finished with a round of 69, made up of two birdies and 16 pars.

Horsfield said of the victory moment: "I was trying not to cry while I was over that little tap-in."

His girlfriend, Issi Bryon, has taken on bag duties in the absence of Horsfield's regular caddie, Mick Seaborn, this week. Horsfield on Saturday said his caddie had been "going through a tough time".

"Having Issi on the bag, it's been an amazing week," Horsfield said. "Mick's not here but I wish he was. I was able to do it for him and I'm so, so happy."

Phil Mickelson will not defend his PGA Championship title after withdrawing from the competition, which takes place next week.

Mickelson has not played since February after he decided to take a break from professional golf following the backlash to his controversial comments over the Saudi Arabia-backed Super Golf League – now officially called the LIV Golf Invitational Series. 

The 51-year-old, who became the oldest major winner in history when he triumphed the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island last year, said Saudi Arabia has "a horrible record on human rights", but added he was willing to commit to the league as it was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates". 

Mickelson apologised for his comments, but his hiatus from the sport saw him miss the Masters for the first time in 28 years.

The six-time major winner was expected to feature at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, after he was included in the final field, yet tournament organisers confirmed on Friday that Mickelson had opted out.

"We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship," a statement on the PGA Championship's official Twitter channel read.

"Phil is the defending champion and currently eligible to be a PGA Life Member and we would have welcomed him to participate. We wish Phil and Amy the very best and look forward to his return to golf."

Mickelson, along with several other golfers, has requested a release from the PGA Tour to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which is due to start next month, though it was not confirmed that he would definitely play in the first event in London.

The PGA has, however, declined those release requests.

Lev Grinberg, a 14-year-old Ukrainian amateur golfer, became the second-youngest player to make the cut at a European Tour event after shooting a brilliant 69 at the Soudal Open.

The teenager carded 70 in his opening round on Thursday on his first appearance at a European Tour event and followed that up with another superb display on Friday to make the cut tied for 29th position in Belgium on three under par.

Guan Tian-lang, at the 2013 Masters, is the only player to have made the cut at a European Tour event at a younger age (14 years and 169 days).

After his fine showing on Thursday, Grinberg had said: "I enjoyed myself out there. I played pretty good."

In 2021, Grinberg advanced to the final stage of qualifying for the U.S. Open, and he would have become the youngest player to feature in a men's major championship.

However, his second round was suspended due to weather and Grinberg subsequently withdrew to compete at a junior tournament in Florida.

Lev Grinberg, a 14-year-old Ukrainian amateur golfer, became the second-youngest player to make the cut at a European Tour event after shooting a brilliant 69 at the Soudal Open.

The teenager carded 70 in his opening round on Thursday on his first appearance at a European Tour event and followed that up with another superb display on Friday to make the cut tied for 29th position in Belgium on three under par.

Guan Tian-lang, at the 2013 Masters, is the only player to have made the cut at a European Tour event at a younger age (14 years and 169 days).

After his fine showing on Thursday, Grinberg had said: "I enjoyed myself out there. I played pretty good."

In 2021, Grinberg advanced to the final stage of qualifying for the U.S. Open, and he would have become the youngest player to feature in a men's major championship.

However, his second round was suspended due to weather and Grinberg subsequently withdrew to compete at a junior tournament in Florida.

Sebastian Munoz made PGA Tour history by shooting his second 60 of the season at the AT&T Byron Nelson on Thursday. 

World number 73 Munoz became the first PGA Tour player with two rounds of 60 or better in the same season by going 12-under par at TPC Craig Ranch.  

It followed the Colombian's 10-under 60 in the opening round of the RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort last November. On that occasion he finished third. 

After bogeying the par-four eighth to slip to two under, Munoz gained six shots across the next four holes – eagles at nine and 12 for the second straight year sandwiching consecutive birdies. 

Munoz added birdies at 14, 16 and 17 before recovering from a wayward approach shot at the last by getting up and down for a further gain and a back nine of 28. 

Despite heading to the clubhouse with a comfortable lead, Munoz was disappointed not to have gone under 60 for the first time in his career. 

Asked what he was thinking while stood on the 18th fairway, he replied: "59. Yeah. I wanted to give myself a chance. 

"I think it was 250 [yards] to the pin into the wind. I kind of wanted to hit like a bullet, like a little draw. I knew if I want to hit it close it had to be a fady, soft-landed shot; I tried to do that. Overdid it and ended up with a 60, which is really good around here. 

"It's a great feeling whenever everything is clicking, hitting the tee shots, ball is coming out in the window that you imagined, you're reading good the putts well. When everything is going it's just stay out of the way and just kind of let it happen. 

"So that's what I did. I had a tough putt on 12 for eagle and like I was thinking like, it's okay if I don't make this one. Then it was like, I know I can make it, just kind of stay in it, trust what you're doing ... I made it. 

"Yeah, coming in it was a great stretch and [I'm] really happy." 

Greg Norman addressed Saudi Arabia's human rights record and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying: "We've all made mistakes."

Former golf world number one Norman is chief executive of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments. He insists that the business is independent and not answerable to Saudi Arabia, and has described the killing of Khashoggi as "reprehensible".

Norman was speaking after accusing the PGA Tour of being "anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive" for denying players permission to enter the opening LIV Golf Invitational series event next month.

The Australian, who twice won the Open Championship, is facing regular questioning about the Saudi funding of the new series, in light of widespread outrage over the death of Khashoggi and concerns raised over the country's human rights record.

Norman said of Khashoggi's 2018 death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul: "Everybody has owned up to it, right? It has been spoken about, from what I've read, going on what you guys reported. Take ownership, no matter what it is.

"Look, we've all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward."

US intelligence chiefs concluded in 2021 that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the mission to capture or kill Khashoggi. Bin Salman has strenuously denied this, but has said that "as a leader I must take responsibility".

In an interview with Sky Sports News, Norman said: "It's reprehensible what's happened with Khashoggi" and that Saudi Arabia is "making a cultural change".

"They want to change that culture and they are changing that culture, and you know how they're doing it? Golf," he said.

When it was pointed out to Norman that this appeared to be a case of "sportswashing", the 67-year-old denied this was the case, saying: "I'm not talking about sportswashing. They're changing their culture within their country."

Asked about reports of 81 men being executed in one day in Saudi Arabia in March 2022, Norman said: "I'm not going to get into politics. I don't want to get into that. But every country's got a cross to bear."

Norman on Tuesday revealed that the LIV Golf series had secured an additional $2billion in funding ahead and stated that several top players had said they would play without a release. The PGA Tour and European Tour have been reluctant to allow top stars to play in the inaugural LIV Golf event at Centurion Club from June 9-11.

Asked about the Saudi money and reminded of the country's human rights record, Norman said: "They're not my bosses, we're independent. I don't answer to Saudi Arabia, I don't answer to MBS [Bin Salman]."

Henrik Stenson has confirmed that Thomas Bjorn will be his first vice-captain for the 2023 Ryder Cup.

Stenson will lead Europe at the next edition of golf's famous team tournament, which will take place at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.

Bjorn captained a European team including Stenson in 2018, as they cruised to an emphatic 17.5-10.5 victory in Paris.

The Dane has been a vice-captain on four previous occasions, and a player three times.

"I'm delighted to be part of the whole Ryder Cup experience once again," said Bjorn.

"I probably thought that after 2018 that was it for me, but Henrik called me to talk about captaincy in general and that led into him asking me if I wanted to do another stint as vice-captain, which I agreed to. I'm excited to work with him."

"I have known Thomas for my whole career," said Stenson. "I trust him implicitly and I know any advice he will give me will be honest and direct. He will not simply tell me what he thinks I want to hear and that will be important, so I'm delighted to have him as my first vice-captain for Rome.

"Since the match itself is still over a year away, I know I am going to have a lot of conversations with him about all elements of the Ryder Cup from his experience, both as a vice-captain on previous occasions but also, obviously, as the captain in 2018 when we had a great result.

"I will be depending on him a lot and I'm really looking forward to those chats. He was very happy when I asked him. He was very honoured to be asked and happy to be part of Team Europe again and part of the journey with the players."

Bjorn has full belief in Stenson's captaincy, adding: "I think Henrik will be a fantastic captain. He is so well respected by players and by everyone in the game.

"He is a very hard-working golfer and somebody who is true to himself, and his team will represent that. He has a great sense of humour that the players will take to, and he is very well liked across the whole tour, not just the top where he has played his golf for so many years."

Greg Norman has slammed the "anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive" PGA Tour for denying players from entering the opening Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational series event next month.

Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are among the players who asked to be released to play in the inaugural event at Centurion Club from June 9-11.

The PGA Tour has denied members permission to play in London, as the Canadian Open will be staged at the same time.

"We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour Tournament Regulations," Tyler Dennis, executive vice president and president of the PGA Tour, wrote in a memo sent to members on Tuesday.

"As such, Tour members are not authorised to participate in the Saudi Golf League's London event under our regulations.

"As a membership organisation, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the Tour and its players."

Norman, the CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, on Tuesday revealed that the event had secured an additional $2billion in funding ahead and stated that several top players had said they would play without a release.

Norman said in a statement: "Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it's exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament.

"This is particularly disappointing in light of the Tour's non-profit status, where its mission is purportedly 'to promote the common interests of professional tournament golfers.'

"Instead, the Tour is intent on perpetuating its illegal monopoly of what should be a free and open market.

"The Tour's action is anti-golfer, anti-fan, and anti-competitive. But no matter what obstacles the PGA Tour puts in our way, we will not be stopped. We will continue to give players options that promote the great game of golf globally."

Tiger Woods has been included in the final field for the US PGA Championship next week, with Phil Mickelson returning from his self-enforced break to defend his title. 

After contesting his first event in 17 months at the Masters in April, 15-time major winner Woods will take part in the tournament at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. 

The 46-year-old finished 47th at Augusta, an impressive feat having almost lost his leg following a car accident Los Angeles in February 2021. 

Woods two weeks ago played a practise round at Southern Hills, which was the site of his 2007 US PGA Championship success. 

Reigning champion Mickelson will also be in the field when the second major of the year gets under way on May 19. 

Mickelson has not played since February after opting to take a break from the sport following the backlash to his controversial comments over the Saudi Arabia-backed Super Golf League – now officially called the LIV Golf Invitational Series. 

The 51-year-old said Saudi Arabia has "a horrible record on human rights", but added he was willing to commit to the league as it was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates". Mickelson later apologised for his "reckless" comments. 

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