Phil Mickelson? He’s out. But Tiger Woods? He appears to be in at PGA.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in 2020 at the Zozo Championship.

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Phil Mickelson? He withdrew. Tiger Woods? He’s committing further. 

Albeit in the strangest of circumstances, golf’s biggest names are making headlines together again. And if you would have foreseen this sequence a year ago, well, we actually don’t believe you.

In a somewhat odd news overlap late Friday afternoon, the PGA of America said Phil Mickelson would not be playing in its PGA Championship, then, about two hours later, the tournament gave a strong sign that Tiger Woods would be. Some 15 months after he suffered leg injuries in a car crash, Woods will meet the media at noon Central time on Tuesday at Southern Hills, where the year’s second major will tee off on Thursday. 

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That announcement from the PGA Championship appears to be following a similar pattern to Woods’ approach at the Masters, where he returned to play for the first time since the incident. At Augusta, the 15-time major champion also held a press conference two days before the start of the tournament, said he would be a “game-time” decision, then played and made the 36-hole cut. 

The weekend before the Masters, Woods played a practice round, and two weeks ago, he also did at Southern Hills. There, Woods was shown around by the club’s director of golf, Cary Cozby, and Cozby told Golf Oklahoma that “unless he has a setback of some kind, he’s playing.” 

“Everything is so smooth with him now,” Cozby told Golf Oklahoma. “His rhythm is great, he hit it straight and plenty far, he pitched and putted it great. I know guys can hit it past him now, but watching him work was amazing. He’s so meticulous, detailed and immersed in what he’s doing. He was very inquisitive on lines and the best angles.

“I think he can contend. He’s like Michael Jordan late in his career, playing defense and hitting jump shots. Whoever wins here is going to have to be a great chipper, and he is still that.”

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Still, Cozby also said, on the A New Breed of Golf show on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, that he thought that Woods was “hurting” toward the end of the day. At the Masters, Woods started with rounds of one-under 71 and 74, then faded on the weekend, after a pair of 78s, admitting he was in pain. 

“Obviously his gait’s permanently, I’m guessing, different,” Cozby said on the show. “And he walks gingerly or just kind of like he is favoring it, but, and he maybe looked like he, late in the round [was] hurting, but he didn’t say a word. Of course, he didn’t complain about any of that. My guess is he got back from Augusta and he assessed it and knew what he was dealing with and went back to work just based on what you know about him for the past 25 years. 

“And I think he’s, I mean, he’ll be fine and he hits it so good. And does everything, he chips it and putts it incredible. Just fun to watch. He forgot his sand wedge so just had his 60. Left it in the backyard, he said.”

On the final day of the Masters, Woods told Sky Sports that he wasn’t sure if he would play the PGA, but was “looking forward to St. Andrews,” where the Open Championship will be held in July. In between the PGA and Open Championship on the majors schedule is the U.S. Open, which will be played in June at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.  

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Woods’ chances of playing in Great Britain appear to be good. He has committed to at least one event, the JP McManus Pro-Am, which is scheduled for July 4-5 at Adare Manor Hotel Golf Club in Limerick, Ireland. It’s just one week before the Open Championship returns to St. Andrews, Scotland, a short flight away from Limerick, and perhaps would serve as a good tune-up for Woods.

Notably, Woods crossed paths again, albeit remotely, with Mickelson, his longtime rival. While the PGA Championship confirmed that Woods would be at Southern Hills, the PGA of America said in a statement that Mickelson had withdrawn completely from the tournament. 

Last May, at the age of 50, Mickelson won the PGA Championship for his sixth major victory, but in the year since, he has been embroiled in controversy. Mickelson has not spoken or appeared in public since he apologized in February following comments on the LIV Golf Invitational series, a new, Saudi Arabia-funded golf league. 

“We have just been informed that Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the PGA Championship,” the PGA said in its release. “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.”

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