Charley Hoffman of Rancho Santa Fe lines up his ball for a putt on Hole 18 of the Farmers Insurance Open.
Charley Hoffman of Rancho Santa Fe lines up his ball for a putt on Hole 18 of the Farmers Insurance Open in 2020. Photo by Chris Stone

Phil Mickelson won’t be a part of this weekend’s PGA Championship, where he made history last year, and in the wake of recent turmoil on the tour about his status, another pro from San Diego has come out in his defense.

Charley Hoffman, a Poway High graduate who has competed on the PGA Tour since 2006 and has known Mickelson for years, told that he has “the utmost respect for Phil.”

That’s despite comments by Mickelson that came to light in February in which the San Diego native criticized the tour, openly discussed his plans to side with a rival operation out of Saudi Arabia and attempted to justify his association with its financiers, who have been accused of substantial human rights violations.

The swift fallout – criticism from fellow golf pros, and many players’ subsequent pledges of loyalty to the tour – caused Mickelson to step back from the public eye. He has not emerged since, and last week withdrew from the PGA Tournament. He also declined interview requests for the ESPN article.

Hoffman, 45, noted the risk Mickelson took – though the golfer had claimed his comments were off the record – and the price he’s been paying since they became public.

“He’s a leader in this game, and unfortunately he stuck his neck out and it got chopped off,” he told ESPN.

Nonetheless, Hoffman added that he thinks the golfing community and fans can forgive Mickelson.

“He’s sorry for what he said, because I know he is, and I think he’ll get nothing but respect and cheers once he gets back out there on the golf course,” Hoffman said.

With his 2021 win at PGA Championship, Mickelson, then 50, became the oldest player to win a PGA major title. According to ESPN, he is just the fifth champion since 1960 to miss the chance to defend such a title, and the others only did so because of injury, or in Payne Stewart’s case in 2000, death.