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Phil Mickelson had no chance of winning PGA Championship anyway | Opinion

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 19/05/2022 Lance Pugmire, USA TODAY
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Phil Mickelson has made a bevy of bone-headed decisions that have come to light in recent months. But one of golf's sharpest observers says Mickelson's decision not to defend his title after last year’s surprise triumph at the PGA Championship is a well-calculated choice. 

"If he played, he’d be a 2,700-to-1 longshot," said Rufus Peabody, a prominent golf bettor. 

Mickelson, 51, has been embroiled in scandal this year, starting with his failed bid to recruit other high-profile players to join him in a Saudi Arabia-backed tour, LIV Golf Invitational Series. Most recently, details from an unauthorized biography by Alan Shipnuck revealed a government audit that showed Mickelson blew through $40 million, gambling between 2010-14. 

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The Saudi fallout and embarrassing details in the book, which arrives for public consumption this week, may have influenced Mickelson's decision to withdrawal from the PGA event in Tulsa, Okla. 

Peabody emphasized the odds were already stacked against Mickelson, regardless of his stature as PGA’s defending champion and a six-time major winner. 

"That doesn’t say anything about how he’s playing now, and he’s had quite a long layoff from playing competitive golf," Peabody said. 

Mickelson, since winning $2.16 million at the PGA one year ago, has missed cuts in five of 12 PGA events he’s played. He finished 60th or worst four other times, posting a best finish of 17th in August. He hasn’t hit a competitive shot on an American tour stop since late January. 

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"It’s about more of how he was playing than it has to do with the long layoff, but the long layoff is part of it, he’d have been a big-time longshot, I guarantee you that," Peabody said. "And I’m not even factoring in what’s on his mind." 

Peabody spoke to USA TODAY Sports+ after processing all 156 of the PGA Championship’s entrants through 250,000 simulations to help him bet the tournament. 

He said it took Mickelson 2,700 simulations to win once. 

Mickelson would have likely slot in around the same longshot position where Peabody's program placed: Alexander Cejka, 51, a one-time PGA tour winner and two-time senior tour winner; Ryan Brehm, 36, a one-time PGA tour winner of the Puerto Rico open; South Africa’s Shaun Norris, 40, a three-time winner of Africa’s Sunshine Tour; and Y.E. Yang, 50, the stunning winner of the long-ago 2009 PGA Championship. 

Peabody is also down on Mickelson’s longtime rival Tiger Woods, who spoke about Mickelson Wednesday. 

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"Forecasting Tiger off one tournament in the last year and a half … it’s hard to believe he’ll do well doing this quantitatively because you just don’t have much data to go off," Peabody said. "I certainly do not expect him to contend. To me, he’s in the 500/1 range." 

PGA Championship Odds

Tipico Sportsbook places Masters winner Scottie Scheffler as the +300 favorite to win the PGA Championship, followed by +330 choice Rory McIlroy, after he closed impressively at the Masters. Jon Rahm is also +330, with Justin Thomas (+380), Jordan Speith (+400), Colin Morikawa (+450), Patrick Cantlay (+480) close behind. Hideki Maysuyama, Cameron Smith, Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland are each +500. 

"It’s a crowded group at the top," Peabody said. "A lot of guys have a chance." 

Hideki Matsuyama helps Scottie Scheffler put on the green jacket after winning the 86th Masters on April 10, 2022. © J. Phillip, File, AP Hideki Matsuyama helps Scottie Scheffler put on the green jacket after winning the 86th Masters on April 10, 2022.

Southern Hills Country Club will test players' in multiple ways, especially after the 2018-19 renovations, Peabody said. 

"They’ve certainly changed it to make it an all-around test, with the shortly mown rough areas around the greens. Chipping is going to be big, certainly with these tight lies into the wind. It’s set up to be long. So being long and in the fairway off the tee is going to be important," Peabody said. "It’s definitely going to do more than most courses to separate the best players from the rest." 

As for who will win the PGA Championship, Peabody sees Scheffler and Rahm as the favorites. 

"I believe Rahm is the best golfer in the world right now," Peabody said. "Scheffler has played this course a lot. He won the Big 12 (Conference championship) in 2015, played it again in 2018, and then, last week, he apparently shot a 64 there, so he’s in very good form and has a good history in his short career on the biggest stage, in majors." 

Peabody factored in the expected high winds and volatile weather into his simulations, which forecasted that players teeing off early Thursday and late Friday would be best protected. 

"Rory’s got a real chance. And Xander. They’re on the correct side of the draw, unlike Rahm and Scheffler," Peabody said. 

Perhaps one of them will fulfill Peabody’s calculations and achieve the victory that follows Mickelson’s triumph at Kiawah Island, a feat now viewed as all the more remarkable considering his chances to win one year later are less than zero. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Phil Mickelson had no chance of winning PGA Championship anyway | Opinion

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