When's the last time a golf major championship winner didn't defend their title the next year?
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When’s the last time a golf major championship winner didn’t defend their title the next year?

Phil Mickelson is not the defending champion at the 2022 PGA Championship. In one of the rarest occasions in golf, Mickelson has chosen not to compete at Southern Hills a year after winning the 2021 PGA Championship to become the oldest major champion in golf history.

Mickelson has not said specifically why he's chosen not to defend the Wanamaker trophy, and there is plenty of speculation as to why: his comments regarding the Saudis and their backing of the LIV Golf concept, mentions of personal failings and a need to fix them and a potential PGA Tour suspension.

Whatever the reason for Mickelson skipping this week, it is exeedingly rare for a reigning major champion to not defend their title.

Tiger Woods tees off on the 17th hole during the first round at the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club (West Course) in Mamaroneck, N.Y. on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

When's the last time a golf major championship winner didn't defend their title?

The last time a major champion didn't defend their title was in 2015. Rory McIlroy won the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, but he wasn't in the field at St. Andrews in 2015 because he injured himself, suffering a high ankle spraing while playing soccer with friends.

Tiger Woods missed the 2008 PGA Championship. He won the 2008 US Open, playing effectively on one leg at Torrey Pines, and then took the rest of the year off. With the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills two months later in August, Woods was not able to defend the title he won in 2007 at Southern Hills in oppressive heat.

Payne Stewart was killed in a plane crash prior to the 2000 US Open. He didn't defend his third and final major championship win, earned in dramatic fashion in the first US Open played on Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.

Art Wall missed the 1960 Masters with a kidney ailment and knee injury.

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