Phil Mickelson to play in European Tour's Saudi International tournament

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 Saudi International to its schedule and going ahead with the event despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in September 2018.

The Washington Post writer, who was living in the United States at the time, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkish officials said.

The event, supported by the government of Saudi Arabia, was considered controversial even before the slaying because of Saudi Arabia's reported human rights abuses.

Mickelson tweeted his thoughts Monday night after seeing the reaction his commitment to the event sparked.

"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," he tweet said. "I understand those who are upset or disappointed. You'll be OK. I'm excited to experience this for the first time."

In addition to defending champion Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Tony Finau also have 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.