Phil Mickelson has become the latest star to commit to the European Tour's controversial stop in Saudi Arabia, a decision that means he'll miss one of his favorite PGA Tour events for the first time in 30 years.
Mickelson has added his name to the decorated field for next year's Saudi International. Dustin Johnson won the inaugural edition earlier this year, but the existence of the event has received criticism over the country's human rights record and the 2018 murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Mickelson's addition to the field was announced in conjunction with that of his former Ryder Cup teammate, Tony Finau, and the two join a list of commits that includes Johnson, world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry, Patrick Reed and Henrik Stenson. Sergio Garcia will also return to the event one year after he was disqualified for purposely damaging multiple greens.
Mickelson, whose 25-year streak inside the top 50 in the world rankings came to an end last month, is "really looking forward to playing" the event according to a Saudi Gazette report.
Given that I turn 50 this year, there’s a good chance I’ve played my last Phoenix Open. We’ll see.
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) December 3, 2019
"I watched Dustin win the title last year and thought the course looked like an interesting challenge," Mickelson said. "Having so many talented players on show also made it look like a much more established tournament than one in its inaugural year. I have enjoyed my previous visits to the Middle East and am looking forward to playing in a new country and doing my bit to grow the game in the kingdom."
This will mark Mickelson's first appearance in the Middle East since a runner-up finish in Abu Dhabi in early 2014.
The Saudi tournament's dates (Jan. 30-Feb. 2) are the same as those of the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open, meaning that Mickelson opted to add a new event at the expense of one he's played 30 times before. A product of nearby Arizona State, Mickelson has won three times at TPC Scottsdale (1996, 2005, 2013) and is a fan favorite at one of the Tour's most raucous events.
Next year will mark the first time that Mickelson will miss the Phoenix event since 1990, when he was still an amateur enrolled at ASU and the tournament was won by Tommy Armour III over Jim Thorpe.