Phil Mickelson hits out at critics of his Saudi appearance

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson has responded to criticism of his decision to play in next month’s Saudi International, telling his detractors: “You’ll be okay.”

Yesterday, Mickelson announced his intention to play in the event, joining a stellar field that already includes defending champion Dustin Johnson, world No.1 Brooks Koepka, and former Masters champions Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia.

Mickelson’s decision means that he’ll miss the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the first time since 1989.

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The Saudi International, first staged this year, has drawn widespread criticism on account of the country’s human rights record, its alleged involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the participation of its Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the execution of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

Most players chosen to keep quiet amid the controversy.

But not Phil.

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Last night, he tweeted: “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.”

* Point of fact: Mickelson played in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in both 2011 and 2014.

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The Guardian’s golf correspondent Ewan Murray replied, telling Mickelson that he could have visited the region without taking the huge appearance fee he and others have reportedly been paid. That prompted this exchange.

The Saudi International takes place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club from January 30 to February 2.

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