Phil Mickelson defends Saudi commitment in testy Twitter exchange

December 3, 2019

Given his free-wheeling social media presence in recent months, it was a change of pace to see Phil Mickelson in press release form Monday morning, when he announced his commitment to the 2020 Saudi International. “I am really looking forward to playing in Saudi Arabia in January,” Mickelson said in a statement. “I watched Dustin win the title last year and thought the course looked like an interesting challenge.”

Players committing to the Saudi International (and accepting seven-figure appearance fees to do so) have faced an onslaught of criticism for their implicit support of the Saudi government (which you can read more about here). Mickelson responded to some of his critics on Twitter Monday night.

First (well, technically second — first he made fun of Samuel Bozoian’s calves) Lefty responded to ESPN writer Bob Harig, who pointed out that Mickelson’s commitment meant he’d be skipping the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the first time in 30 years.

“Given that I turn 50 this year, there’s a good chance I’ve played my last Phoenix Open. We’ll see,” he wrote.

But one user, Brian Flaherty, came back at Mickelson. “You’re better than taking the money grab from a corrupt regime. Come on, Phil,” he wrote. Mickelson responded with his longest post of the night.

“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.”

Ewan Murray, who covers golf for the Guardian, pointed out that Mickelson could, of course, travel to the Middle East without playing the event, a suggestion that Mickelson called “stupid.”

Murray didn’t back down. “It won’t seem stupid to people with half an interest in human rights,” he wrote. “Your competitive relish is rather irrelevant in such context.”

Mickelson had no interest in engaging further. “You ‘’You do you booboo, cuz ima do me,” he wrote, paraphrasing this bit from comedian Kevin Hart. He added in a few other posts that although he’s turning 50, his calves are a “strong 32” and also that he’s intending to play the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, which he missed last season. He also “liked” a handful of replies defending his decision to play wherever he wants.

With that, Mickelson logged off — but we know he’ll be back.

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