Jim Nantz does not believe Phil Mickelson’s recent controversies will stick with him forever.
Nantz and six-time major winner Nick Faldo are calling the PGA Championship next weekend from Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., For CBS, and appeared on the network’s media conference call Wednesday ahead of the second major of the year.
Mickelson, who won the PGA Championship last year at the age of 50 to become golf’s oldest major champion, has been in seclusion in recent months after comments he made blasting the PGA Tour and downplaying human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia with regards to participating in a rival Saudi Arabian-backed golf league.
Nantz and Faldo were asked by The Post if Mickelson, who’s currently in the field for the 2022 PGA Championship, should compete in the major next week.
“Totally a personal decision for Phil,” Nantz said. “I’m not going to make any public advisements, but he will be back. Sometimes we get caught in the cyclone of a story and we think it will be forever. It will not be forever. He’ll be back.
Of course, his age is a factor in how much he’ll be able to compete at a high level, but that’s what they said a year ago. He’ll be back. He’ll play. He’s got a ton of fans out there. This is a forgiving nation. There’s a million examples of people who have been somehow able to find their way back to be on top again. I fully expect he will. ”
Earlier in the call, Nantz was asked what advice he would give Mickelson.
“I’m going to keep that private,” the broadcaster answered. “I’ve actually communicated with him and I do not feel like that’s something I’m sharing with everyone else, so I’ll leave it at that.”
When asked if Mickelson should play in the tournament, Faldo replied, “I think he’d love to play. He’s defending one of the most historic majors we’ve ever seen. Jim and I were calling that last year and it dawned on us what we’d seen.
“We saw Tiger come back for his 15th [major at the Masters in 2019] and we saw Phil win at 50. Obviously, that’s a Phil decision. An awful lot has happened, and I think it’s going to be an extremely tough decision. I hope he knows what he wants to do right now. ”
Mickelson had a particularly tumultuous February. He accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed” in the amount of money they (do not) distribute to golfers. A couple weeks later, he downplayed human rights concerns associated with competing in the Saudi golf league.
“They’re scary mother [expletive] to get involved with, ”Mickelson told author Alan Shipnuck. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. 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. ”
Earlier in the call, Faldo had talked about the enormous mental challenge it would be for Mickelson to compete in the major after the events of the last several months.
“If he’s there, great, obviously he’s defending this historic win. I personally think it’s an unbelievable mental challenge to come back and play after what he put himself through – as simple as that. I do not think it’s as easy as getting back on the bike and riding at a golf tournament and going and playing.
“The tension is going to be monumental, so I do not know whether he will be mentally ready for that.”