Phil Mickelson at the 2021 PGA Championships, South Carolina, USA
Phil Mickelson at the 2021 PGA Championships, South Carolina, USA | (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Golf | PGA Championship 2022 preview | Mickelson absence lingers over Southern Hills

By Neil Leverett

  • Southern Hills Country Club in Oklahoma hosts the 2022 PGA Championship beginning on Thursday
  • Defending champion Phil Mickelson absent as fallout over Saudi Golf League rolls on
  • Masters champion Scottie Scheffler looking to become only 14th player in history to win successive majors in same year
TULSA, OKLAHOMA – As the second major of the season gets under way on Thursday, who will take home the Wanamaker Trophy at Southern Hills?


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Southern Hills return for PGA

As major season recommences this week, the 104th PGA Championship returns to familiar ground at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, hosting the tournament for the fifth time.

Originally set to be played at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, the course was stripped of hosting rights last year after the PGA felt its brand would be harmed, following controversy surrounding former US President Donald Trump’s involvement over the storming of the Capitol Building in Jaunary 2021.

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The second major of the year, the newly renovated course with an ‘English country manor’ designed Clubhouse has also been the destination for three US Opens since 1958 and this week, Southern Hills will become the first US venue to host a PGA Championship five times.

With competition again set to be fierce and with the Open-arc only weeks away, Oklahoma should again see excellent competition.


Mickelson leaves void

As the big names from across the globe assemble in The Sooner State, one name absent from the field once again will be Phil Mickelson.

After withdrawing from his second major on the bounce last Friday, the Californian’s void will be more keenly felt than at Augusta, with Mickelson unable to defend the title he sensationally won at Kiawah Island 12 months ago.

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Having become the oldest male player to win a major with his victory in South Carolina, the ripples of impact are still being felt as the spectre of the Saudi Golf League hangs over another event.

It had been hoped that Mickelson would return to the fold this weekend after talks with the PGA of America, however, with Mickelson still not ready to face the music after his explosive comments regarding Greg Norman‘s breakaway league, the rare occurrence of a champion being unable to defend the Trophy has come to pass.

Set to play Norman’s LIV Golf event in Hertfordshire in June, Mickelson remains the most likely big-name draw for the SGL even after his words from earlier this year, but for now is a golfing pariah.

Just when Mickelson will play another PGA Tour event or indeed turnout for either the US or Open Championship this summer, remains in some doubt.


Scheffler aims at history

Just 13 players in history have won back-to-back majors and on Thursday, Scottie Scheffler will begin his quest to join that elite groups of players.

Having claimed his first major title last month at the Augusta National, the world number one remains the dominant force in golf, despite finishing only T15 at this past weekend’s AT&T Byron Nelson – his lowest finish since his rise up the rankings began in February.

Finishing a full seven strokes behind Lee Kyoung-hoon as the South Korean impressively defended his own title, this week however, Scheffler will look to join an even rarer band of players to win their first two majors in consecutive fashion on a course which he professes as his favourite.

It was a point Scheffler emphasized back in August of last year when he spoke to My Avid Golfer – before his stunning rise in 2022.

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“Obviously Augusta is incredible, but I have always been a huge fan of Southern Hills in Tulsa. I haven’t had a chance to play it since the renovation yet, but I really liked it before.


Having impressed a Southern Hills’ resident pro when Scheffler made the trip to Tulsa in preparation earlier this month, it appears the New Jersey native remains in good shape ahead of this week, with reports he was two to three shots under par over 18 holes.

Suggestions have been made that Scheffler might be saving his efforts for both Brookline and St. Andrews’ this summer, however given his shot at history and with all that has been documented about his liking for the surroundings this week, it would be no surprise to see another Scheffler show of dominance.


Major impression for Tiger?

Mickelson’s absence may have robbed the galleries of the renewal of the golfing rivalry of a generation against Tiger Woods but nevertheless, the 2022 PGA could see the Tiger on the prowl once more.

After an emotional and inspiring Masters return last month, Woods suffered from the unlikely inclement Augusta conditions but this week, 90 degree climes might suit the 15-time major winner to a T – although that being said, the weekend could see much cooler temperatures and further rain.

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Four of Woods’ big four titles have come in the PGA Championship, the last of which came here at Southern Hills in 2007.

Woods appears to be feeling bullish enough also, and when asked whether he felt stronger than his last major appearance, the Californian was emphatic in his “Oh god, yes” retort.

The golfing fraternity got a glimpse of the old Tiger on Thursday at the Masters and many are hoping that Woods can again recapture his form of old in Tulsa. If he does, the world will be watching.


Growing contenders list

Throughout the history of the game, the PGA Championship has thrown up more surprise winners than any other major.

No fewer than eight players have claimed the Wanamaker Trophy as their sole career major success since the turn of the millennium, including the likes of Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel and Keegan Bradley – the latter of which became one of only six players to win on his major debut, with a win in 2011.

Intriguingly, it could be Bradley who could again feature 11 years on. After a strong late challenge to Cam Smith at Sawgrass back in the spring, the 35-year-old also pushed Wells Fargo winner Max Homa hard earlier this month.

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A man who already has won the tournament, Bradley could buck 66/1 tournament odds this week.

Homa is also another man to watch this week, now with two season victories under his belt. Alongside the Arizonan, Jordan Spieth‘s form continues to yoyo, with his latest PGA Tour win at RBC Heritage only a month ago but his major woes continue. A best finish coming in 2015, his last two PGA appearances resulted in finishes of T30 and T71.

In the case of Jon Rahm, since winning the US Open last June, the Spaniard has fallen off the pace somewhat. Now deposed from the top of the ranks, a win at the Mexico Open at the beginning of the month however, sees Rahm well poised to challenge for a second major.

What of Brooks Koepka then? Winner of the PGA in 2018 and 2019, the Floridian is without a win since February of last year but did finish T2 behind Mickelson and a fitter Koepka may have challenged the eventual winner to the wire. Much will depend on his consistency tee-to-green which has been errant since his return from knee injury.

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From the DP World Tour meanwhile, perhaps a long shot name to watch in Tulsa is Sam Horsfield.

A player who has spent most of his adult life in the US, the Manchester-born 25-year-old is yet to win make a real impact on American shores, but after winning the Soudal Open in Belgium this past weekend, Horsfield has form and could be one of the strongest British contenders with Paul Casey missing out through the same back issue that forced his Augusta withdrawal.

That is, aside from Rory McIlroy who showed his best major form since the pandemic last time out. Despite further weekend struggles in fading at Wells Fargo after a Sunday charge recently, the Northern Irishman will again have the pundits and fans talking up his chances as a three-time Wanamaker winner.

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele also look well placed to feature having won the Zurich Classic together, with the former losing out to Spieth in a playoff at Heritage.

As ever however, with a different name having won a major in every tournament bar one since the 2019 US Open, the net and indeed contenders list, is broad and wide.


The 104th PGA Championship begins on Thursday at Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma.


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