TOUR SURPRISE

Mickelson will skip a PGA Tour event he's never missed as a pro to play in Saudi Arabia

By Alex Myers  

Phil Mickelson. Photo by Golffile

For a second consecutive year, Phil Mickelson will make a surprising tweak to his early-season schedule. This time, he's swapping desert tournaments on different continents.

On Monday, the Saudi International announced it has received a commitment from Mickelson. That means the five-time major champ will play in the controversial European Tour event instead of the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open, which is also scheduled for Jan. 30-Feb. 2.

“I am really looking forward to playing in Saudi Arabia in January,” Mickelson said in a statement that announced him joining other tournament commits like defending champ Dustin Johnson and World No. 1 Brooks Koepka. “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.”

Mickelson had previously made TPC Scottsdale his own kingdom, winning three times and lipping out a final putt for 59 in 2013. In total Mickelson has made 30 starts in the event, including 27 in a row since turning pro in 1992. Mickelson, who spent much of his childhood in Scottsdale, also played in the tournament as an amateur three times while he was a member of Arizona State's golf team.

“Thirty years, gosh, I remember when I was in college, it doesn't seem that long ago that I was playing in my first Phoenix Open,” Mickelson said ahead of last year's event. “Just amazing how many great memories I have when I come back and play here.”

Last year, Mickelson skipped his other hometown event, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, for the first time in 28 years. But that had more to do with a packed early season schedule and Mickelson's intention to avoid playing golf courses with thick rough.

Mickelson snapped a different kind of streak last month when he fell out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in nearly 26 years. The 44-time PGA Tour winner turns 50 in June.

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