SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Fan favorite golf pro Phil Mickelson is reportedly planning to skip the Waste Management Phoenix Open next year. According to Golf Digest, the pro will pass on the PGA Tour event here in the Valley to play a tournament in Saudi Arabia.
On Monday, the Saudi International announced it received a commitment from Mickelson. That event is set for Jan. 30 through Feb. 2, which conflicts with the Waste Management dates.
“I am really looking forward to playing in Saudi Arabia in January,” Mickelson said in a statement, according to ESPN. “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.”
Mickelson is arguably one of the most popular players each year at the TPC Scottsdale. He has won three WM Phoenix Open titles and is the all-time leading money winner in tournament history. He's also known for his role in the community. In 2016, Arizona's Family was there as Mickelson created a special moment for a wheelchair-bound boy.
Mickelson has deep connections to the Valley, having spent much of his childhood in Scottsdale, and playing in the Open as an amateur three times while he was a member of ASU's golf team. Mickelson's career includes 10 European Tour victories, though never one in the Middle East.
The Saudi International event found itself at the center of controversy last year, after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. Even Arizona leaders called for Saudi Arabia to be held accountable for the killing. At the time, Democratic Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema stated: "I think Congress has a real role to play here and I would encourage the Senate and the House to make sure we are holding Saudi Arabia accountable."
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and a Washington Post columnist, was critical of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's policies. He was allegedly killed and dismembered on October 2, 2018, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by men with close ties to the highest levels of the Saudi government.