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



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.





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


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 the Assistant Editor at GolfWRX. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito



  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 DailyWRX (10/22/2020): A pot of gearhead gold | Slo-mo Tiger goodness



For Gearheads this is a pot of gold…

He’s back….

I can…..

View this post on Instagram

Who can relate? Via: @golfersdoingthings

A post shared by PGA Memes (@pgamemes) on

My back hurts….

He would know…..

DM @johnny_wunder



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19th Hole

The DailyWRX (10/21/2020): Golf dad jokes | How to make the Match 3 better



Yes he will….God willing….

Dad Jokes……

View this post on Instagram

This fucking guy ????

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I have some thoughts…..3 on 1….Phil Gross vs Threesome Net, Stroke Play….Threesome gets to call “no driver” on 3 holes….”no wedges” on 3 holes and no “putter” on 3 holes…Make it interesting. Everyone plays from White tees. LFG

I thought his mask was a beard he grew just to work out….

Yah but it doesn’t make me a bad person….

View this post on Instagram

What golf ball do you use?

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DM @johnny_wunder









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19th Hole

Tiger weighs in on the distance debate: ‘They should have been worried a long time ago, but the genie’s out of the bag now’



The distance debate in golf continues to rumble on, and this week, the greatest player of his generation had his say claiming that the game’s governing bodies should have been worried a long time ago about the surge in distance amongst Tour pros.

Asked before this week’s Zozo about the recent urge players have to find more distance, Woods spoke about the importance of length in the game and how it’s more accessible than ever for players to find an extra gear or two off the tee.

“Distance has always been an advantage. Now that we have the tools, that being the launch monitor, the fitting of the golf clubs, the adjustability. I think all that plays into the fact that you’re able to maximize the capabilities of a driver.

There’s no reason why you can’t pick up more yardage, and guys have done that. They’ve changed shafts, they’ve changed lofts, they’ve changed weights on their heads and length of clubs. Driving is such a huge part of the game and it’s so advantageous if you’re able to get the ball out there. It just makes the game so much easier.”

When asked by media if the game’s authorities should be worried about the recent surge in the added distance in the game, Woods claimed that though he would like to be able to see a complete rollback, he doesn’t see it happening.

“They should have been worried a long time ago, but the genie’s out of the bag now. It’s about what do we do going forward, and how soon can they do it. I don’t know if they’re going—you’re not going to stop the guys who are there right now. Guys are figuring out how to carry the ball 320-plus yards, and it’s not just a few of them. There’s a lot of guys can do it. That’s where the game’s going.

There’s only going to be a small amount of property that we can do, we can alter golf courses. I just don’t see how they can roll everything back. I would like to be able to see that, as far as our game, but then we go back down the road of what do you bifurcate, at what level? So that’s a long discussion we’ve had for a number of years, for 20-plus years now, and I think it’s only going to continue.” 

Tiger will tee off for his first round at the Zozo Championship this Thursday at 1.45 PM ET.

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