PGA Tour

Mickelson responds to criticism over Saudi attendance

2019-12-04 13:25
Phil Mickelson (PA)
Phil Mickelson (PA)

Cape Town - Phil Mickelson took to social media on Monday to defend his recent commitment to play in the European Tour's upcoming Saudi International event in Saudi Arabia.

Mickelson is far from the only major golfing star to confirm his attendance at the upcoming event, with the likes of Dustin Johnson (the defending champion), world No 1 Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Shane Lowry, Henrin Stenson and Sergio Garcia all accepting appearance fees as well.

Many feel that the world's top golfers should not be playing in Saudi Arabia due to the country's questionable human rights record, as well as the government's alleged involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Mickelson's first statement on his attendance sidestepped any controversy, with the five-time major champion saying: "I watched Dustin win the title last year and thought the course looked like an interesting challenge.

"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."

Hours later, as criticism of Mickelson's decision intensified, the American took to Twitter to say he "understand(s) those who are upset or disappointed."

"After turning down opportunities to go to the Middle East for many years, I'm excited to go play and see a place in the world I've never been. I understand those who are upset or disappointed. You'll be ok. I'm excited to experience this for the first time," Lefty wrote.

The Saudi International takes place from January 30-February 2, the same week as the Phoenix Open, which Mickelson has religiously attended for years, but he reckons there's a "good chance" that he has made his last appearance at TPC Scottsdale.

"Given that I turn 50 this year, there's a good chance I've played my last Phoenix Open. We'll see," he wrote in response to a question from a Twitter user.


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