Mickelson to play in Saudi International event

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Phil Mickelson will bypass a staple of his annual schedule to play the Saudi International tournament on the European Tour.

The event is Jan. 30-Feb. 3, the same week as the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, which Mickelson has won three times.

The European Tour last year came under heavy criticism for adding the event to its schedule. The tournament is supported by the Saudi Arabia government and will be played for the second time.

“I am really looking forward to playing in Saudi Arabia in January,” said Mickelson in a statement. “I watched Dustin (Johnson) 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.”

Johnson is the defending champion and Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Tony Finau have also committed to play the event, as have Henrik Stenson and Open champion Shane Lowry.

All of those players would be expected to receive appearance fees for playing the tournament.

Mickelson, 49, recently dropped out of the top 50 in the world for the first time since 1993 and is now ranked 58th.

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