A past champion is not competing.

That’s Phil Mickelson’s official status for this year’s Masters Tournament, and it’s not the category one would expect for one of golf’s most popular players of the past 30 years.

The most respected tournament in the game will go on without him, of course, but Mickelson and Augusta National have been tightly entwined over the years, and the azaleas won’t be quite as bright without the presence of a man who has won the event three times and typically attracts one of its biggest galleries.

The blame for this missed shot rests heavily on Mickelson’s shoulders. His nasty remarks of recent weeks have sent him into a cocoon of his own making. How and when he escapes into the sunlight are questions that are difficult to answer.

Augusta National would not be the proper place for the beginnings of whatever revival Mickelson attempts. His presence on the hallowed grounds would create a circus that probably would overshadow much of the first day’s other events, and both Augusta National and Mickelson will be better off without those distractions.

Sports fans are famously anxious to forgive, and wherever and whenever Mickelson decides to resurface, he’s likely to be greeted generously by most of the golf populace. The same might not be said for golf’s officialdom, where, you can bet, Mickelson’s name has been dragged aggressively through the mud in recent weeks.

One of the great mysteries surrounding all this folderol is how Mickelson managed to embroil himself in a situation so strange and difficult that it will take more than a simple apology to extract himself from it. It’s not like he made a tiny misstep. No, for him this was like sending one of his patented green-side wedge shots flying high into the sky and far beyond the other side of the putting surface. 

In a word, it was a doozie.

Sponsors fled. Fellow golfers took him to task. Few people understood how Mickelson, who has become one of the wealthiest people in professional sports, could accuse the PGA Tour of “greed” while also hammering the LIV Golf Investments group. It was like taking a sword and cutting off both hands that could feed him in the future.

Mickelson’s antics also could have an impact on what many considered his real future – in television. Personable,  knowledgeable, and funny, Mickelson has shown great presence in front of the camera, and more than a few people expect him to eventually win one of the networks’ prime analyst seats. But he’ll need to be far removed from the recent unpleasantness.

It should be pointed out that many people would be quite happy to be in Mickelson’s situation. He has been embarrassed on an international scale, true, but there’s little doubt that he’ll emerge on the other side at some point and choose to play golf with the old reliable PGA or take the millions being floated by the Saudi group.

But he’s missing the Masters, and that’s bound to hit him squarely in the gut.