Tiger Woods has decided to leave great rival Phil Mickelson alone with his thoughts after the reigning US PGA Championship winner pulled out of his planned title defence. 

Amid a continuing backlash over Mickelson's comments about the Saudi-backed breakaway tour, the 51-year-old has elected to skip this week's major. 

Mickelson has not played since February after angering many in the game with his remarks about the Super Golf League – now officially called the LIV Golf Invitational Series.  

The veteran American, who became the oldest major winner in history when he triumphed 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 has apologised but missed the Masters and is not ready to return to the PGA Tour yet. He, along with several other golfers, has asked for a release from the PGA Tour to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which is due to start next month, but those requests have been refused. 

Woods was asked about Mickelson in a news conference at Southern Hills, Tulsa, ahead of the US PGA getting under way on Thursday. 

"I have not reached out to him. I have not spoken to him," Woods said. "A lot of it has not to do with, I think, personal issues. It was our viewpoints of how the Tour should be run and could be run, and what players are playing for and how we are playing for it. I have a completely different stance. 

"I don't know what he's going through. But I know the comments he made about the Tour and the way that it should be run, it could be run; it could be run differently and all the different financials that could have happened, I just have a very different opinion on that. And so no, I have not reached out to him." 

Woods said it was "always disappointing" for a major champion to be absent rather than defending a title. 

"Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the Tour and committed to the legacy of the Tour have pushed back against, and he's taken some personal time, and we all understand that," Woods said. 

"But I think that some of his views on how the Tour could be run, should be run, [there has] been a lot of disagreement there." 

Woods described Mickelson's comments about the PGA Tour as "polarising" and pointed to the PGA Tour's long history, as well as its current lucrative events, as reason to show it full support. 

The 46-year-old pointed to how Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer had been instrumental in the Tour breaking away from the PGA of America in 1968, creating greater earning potential for the players. 

"I just think that what Jack and Arnold have done in starting the Tour and breaking away from the PGA of America and creating our Tour ... I just think there's a legacy to that," Woods said. 

"I still think that the Tour has so much to offer, so much opportunity. I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past. 

"There's plenty of money out here. The Tour is growing. But it's just like any other sport. It's like tennis. You have to go out there and earn it. You've got to go out there and play for it. We have opportunity to go ahead and do it. It's just not guaranteed up front." 

Woods, in his second major since returning from injuries sustained in a horrific February 2021 car crash, is feeling increasingly optimistic his body can help his skill set deliver a 16th major championship. 

"I feel like I can, definitely. I just have to go out there and do it," he said. "I have to do my work. Starts on Thursday and I'll be ready." 

Tiger Woods will be joined in a golfing super-group by Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy for the first two rounds of the US PGA Championship.

The trio, who between them have landed 22 titles at the majors, will begin on Thursday at 08:11 local time (13:11GMT) at Southern Hills, the Oklahoma course that is staging the tournament for a fifth time.

Woods, who won the last of his four US PGA titles at Southern Hills in 2007, has played only one tournament this season, making the cut at the Masters in April.

He is continuing to recover from the foot and leg injuries he sustained in a car crash in February of last year, but there were flickers of the old Woods during his performance at Augusta.

Woods said in a news conference on Tuesday: "It's better than the last time I played a tournament, which is good

"We've been working hard. I have days when it is tough and days where we can push through, but we keep working at it."

Woods has 15 majors to his name, McIlroy has four, including two at the US PGA, and Spieth needs a win at this event to complete a career grand slam, having won each of the other three majors once.

McIlroy believes 46-year-old Woods would not have entered this week if he did not believe it possible to contend come Sunday.

"Six weeks is a long enough time to recover from that week [at the Masters] and then build yourself back up again. He certainly hasn't chosen two of the easiest walks in golf to come back to, Augusta and here," McIlroy said.

"But he's stubborn, he's determined. This is what he lives for. He lives for these major championships, and if he believes he can get around 18 holes, he believes he can win."

Jack Nicklaus has revealed he turned down an offer in excess of $100million to be the face of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The breakaway competition will stage its inaugural tournament at Centurion Club near London in June.

Greg Norman is fulfilling the role of chief executive of LIV Golf Investments, but Nicklaus has suggested he was the organisers' initial choice to front the rebel circuit.

"I was offered something in excess of $100m by the Saudis, to do the job probably similar to the one that Greg is doing," he told The Fire Pit Collective. 

"I turned it down. Once verbally, once in writing. I said, 'Guys, I have to stay with the PGA Tour. I helped start the PGA Tour'."

Phil Mickelson is among the players to have requested to play in the first LIV Golf event, which is worth a record $25m.

The six-time major winner has not played since February following the backlash to his controversial comments about the tour and Saudi Arabia's alleged human rights violations.

He was included in the field for this week's US PGA Championship in Oklahoma, but withdrew last week, meaning he will not get the chance to defend the title he won last year.

But Nicklaus, who played a key part in golf's first breakaway 54 years ago when the PGA Tour branched off from the PGA of America, believes there is a route back for Mickelson.

"My advice to Phil would be to be patient," he said.

"The world is a very forgiving place. But he's the one – he has to decide where he wants to play and what he wants to do."

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]."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.