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Phil Mickelson responds to criticism after ditching Phoenix Open for Saudi International

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Phil Mickelson felt the wrath of many golf fans on Monday after the 49-year-old announced that he would be skipping the Phoenix Open in 2020 to instead play in the Saudi International.

Mickelson has been ever-present at the Phoenix Open since turning pro, and now joins a growing list which includes the likes of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed who are reported to be receiving up to seven-figure appearance fees for their participation at the Middle East event.

The controversy surrounding players involvement at the event boils down to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the government’s alleged involvement in the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi back in 2018. In 2019, both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy snubbed invites to the event, despite reportedly being offered over $3 million to play.

In a statement confirming his entrance in the 2020 event, Mickelson cited an urge to do his bit to “grow the game in the Kingdom”.

“I am really looking forward to playing in Saudi Arabia in January. I watched Dustin win the title last year and thought the course looked like an interesting challenge. I have enjoyed my previous visits to the Middle East (the last being in Abu Dhabi five years ago) and am looking forward to playing in a new country and doing my bit to grow the game in the Kingdom.”

However, many golf fans on social media weren’t buying those reasons from Mickelson. Those fans vented their views to the five-time major champion, accusing him of taking a cash grab and turning a blind eye to the human rights record of the country.

@apbode

@golftildeth

@jjhuntvillage

 

Those reactions provoked Mickelson to defend his decision, offering this response to the critics.

@philmickelson

The discussion didn’t end there, however, with The Guardian journalist Ewan Murray and Mickelson involved in an evening quarrel, the former of which wasn’t pulling any punches in his criticism of the 49-year-old’s decision to play the event.

@philmickelson & @mrewanmurray

What do you think of Mickelson’s decision to tee it up at next year’s Saudi International, WRXers?

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Eyes Open

    Dec 4, 2019 at 3:33 am

    Well where is the uproar with all the tournament play in China… not exactly well regarded for their human rights stance either. Not saying I’d be playing in SA but why is China immune (Or rather the pros that play there)… Maybe Lebron can answer…

  2. Mad-Mex

    Dec 3, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    It will interesting how he is treated at his next U.S. tournament ,, at 49, he is lucky to still get high 6 to 7 figures to play,,,, his tweets do come as him being a jerk,,, oh well,,, life is too short to worry about millionaires,,,,,,,,, FORE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Jamal

    Dec 3, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    Don’t come back, Phil. Sellout with a fake smile.

  4. JThunder

    Dec 3, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Mickelson – like Kuchar; just because he smiles all the time and waves at fans, that doesn’t make him a good person. Maybe it just makes him good at “marketing his brand” – because money is 100% everything to those two, based on their quantifiable actions.

    There is as growing trend for wealthy Americans to support dictators, in case anyone hasn’t noticed.

  5. James

    Dec 3, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    Sellout to the wahhabist head-choppers who were behind 911. Bad move, Phil.

  6. Bill Fikkelson

    Dec 3, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    When I close my eyes tonight, I’m going to fall asleep. And I’m going to sleep just as well whether Phil plays in a tournament with one manufactured TV hole, or overseas in a foreign country. And when I get up tomorrow, the world will be just the same as I left it.

    • Moosejaw McWilligher

      Dec 3, 2019 at 6:46 pm

      You may be right. Then again, some would say that’s called “enabling”. It does make some difference in the world when wealthy and famous people legitimize – for example – a violent regime. It also makes a difference when those people denounce a regime. Phil Mickelson is worth ~$400 million. Where that money comes from and what Phil does with it absolutely make a difference in the world.

      If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

  7. Wayne

    Dec 3, 2019 at 11:06 am

    If PM wants to go who cares. If he doesn’t go will the human right thing stop. No. Stop moaning and let him get on with it

    • Moosejaw McWilligher

      Dec 3, 2019 at 6:48 pm

      Maybe not Phil alone. But if Phil chose not to go, and other followed, and eventually the event folded for lack of headliners – perhaps that would be part of a bigger trend that would lead to change.

  8. dc1

    Dec 3, 2019 at 10:12 am

    While the appearance money is nice, I don’t think that motivates guys like Phil all that much as he already has hundreds of millions. He was not thinking of the politics or the optics, which is a bit of a mistake, but he probably really does want to play there. Good or bad call–different people will have different views. It’s not like we don’t do a lot of business with SA and I don’t hear a lot of people saying we should boycott all activity with them.

    • Steven StClair

      Dec 3, 2019 at 12:26 pm

      One of the most liudicrous comments I’ve ever seen. It’s a money grab, pure and simple, and if you know anything about Mickelson that’s no surprise.

  9. Ty Webb

    Dec 3, 2019 at 9:52 am

    Before you throw the first stone, make sure you consume zero oil from SA, because i guarantee you that oil sales are far more important to SA than PM playing an event there. No FIGJAM fan either.

    • Moosejaw McWilligher

      Dec 3, 2019 at 6:51 pm

      Can you recommend companies that do not source oil from Saudi Arabia? If so, I’m sure some folks would be happy to consider those recommendations. Boycotts are real and have been known to force change.

      Generic internet platitudes, on the other hand, serve only to excuse bad behavior.

  10. Jon

    Dec 3, 2019 at 9:39 am

    I want to know what his sponsors think about him going to Saudi.

    • ~j~

      Dec 3, 2019 at 10:03 am

      Name a sponsor who doesn’t advertise and sell in Dubai.

      • Mike Honcho

        Dec 3, 2019 at 12:29 pm

        KPMG has offices in Saudi. Workday services Saudi…I’m sure they are totally fine with his visit.

      • Mike Honcho

        Dec 3, 2019 at 12:31 pm

        J missed Geography class obviously. Dubai a desperate country, not a city Saudi.

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19th Hole

The 6 best #GolfWRX photos on Instagram today (12.13.19)

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In this segment, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best #GolfWRX tagged photos on Instagram. In case you aren’t already, there’s a whole load of action going on at our page, so follow us: @golfwrx

Let’s get to it then, here are six of the best #GolfWRX photos from the past 24 hours.

“Rose of Tralee”

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Rose of Tralee

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Some beautiful work from Olson.

Colorful finish from LowTide Putters.

Sweet giveaway from Corey Paul.

Lefty love from Cushman Custom Golf.

Phil Carlson showcasing Pinehurst No. 4.

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Tuesday: Played @pinehurstresort number 4. This course is phenomenal. Gil Hanse’s redesign of this course is outstanding. Definitely not as punishing as course 2 but just as good in terms of layout. Greens are fast and large but will not punish you as much with imprecise shots. Much more fun to play if you want to score well. Still difficult but it will not frustrate you like Course 2. We had a beautiful 70 degree day and couldn’t of had a better time playing this course. We had the first tee time off in the morning and finished just under 4 hours which left us enough time to go play another track which I will post about shortly. Enjoy the pics! #pinehurst4 #whyilovethisgame #pinehurstgolf #golfislife #instagolf #golfdigesttop100 #ncgolf #golfwrx #golfcoursepics

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Get hashtagging your golf posts #GolfWRX for your chance to feature in our best of Instagram posts in the future!

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Thorbjorn Olesen pleads not guilty to sexual assault; will stand trial in May

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European Tour professional Thorbjorn Olesen has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault, being drunk on an aircraft and assault by beating.

The Dane appeared at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday morning where he issued his not guilty plea to the three charges. Olesen will now stand trial on May 11, 2020, which is the week of the PGA Championship.

Olesen was arrested at Heathrow Airport on his return to London from Memphis on 29 July, where he is alleged to have abused passengers, molested a woman and urinated in the first-class aisle of the plane.

The 29-year-old remains suspended from the European Tour pending the outcome of his trial.

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The 6 best #GolfWRX photos on Instagram today (12.12.19)

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In this segment, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best #GolfWRX tagged photos on Instagram. In case you aren’t already, there’s a whole load of action going on at our page, so follow us: @golfwrx

Let’s get to it then, here are six of the best #GolfWRX photos from the past 24 hours.

Channing Benjamin showcasing PGA West – Stadium Course.

Dropping today from American Flatsticks.

Pocket Pair Cover Sets arriving today from Swag.

Slick looking blade from Norcal Putters.

Sweet look at Cushman Custom Golf busy at work.

Our own Ryan Barath giving us an up-close look at Mizuno’s Pure Steel MP37s.

Get hashtagging your golf posts #GolfWRX for your chance to feature in our best of Instagram posts in the future!

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