Phil Mickelson is back in Saudi Arabia
Phil Mickelson is back in Saudi Arabia Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Phil Mickelson may have hit the half-century in age terms, but he insists he is raring to go at the Saudi International this week as he enjoys a trip over to the Middle East and away from the daily grind in the United States.

The five-time Major winner celebrated his 50th birthday in June and has returned to Saudi Arabia for a second tilt at the title — he tied for third on his debut last year at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

Mickelson’s last title came at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February 2019, but he is primed to go once again against a strong field including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, and recent Abu Dhabi and Dubai champs Tyrrell Hatton and Paul Casey on a course he rates as one of the best.

“This course is perfect,” the left-handed American said after a practice round on Wednesday. “I would give it 10 out of 10 as it is so playable and also a fun challenge if the wind gets up. They have such a great set-up here for an event only in its third year.”

Johnson and Graeme McDowell are the only names on the trophy thus far after it debuted in 2019, and a relaxed Mickelson is aiming to join that duo come Sunday and claim top prize in the $3.5 million competition.

“It is great to come over here again and see different parts of the world,” Mickelson said. “I have been in the Red Sea and played beach volleyball. I have had a great time here and in all my years on tour, I don’t think I have ever been treated better. They have such a vision for Saudi to become a top tourism and sports destination. I’m not sure what it will be like in a few years, but it is going to be spectacular.”

Despite the impact of the coronavirus, it looks like we will be going ahead with the Ryder Cup in September at Whistling Straits, and Mickelson is keen to be involved, wither as a player or as a vice-captain to Steve Stricker on the American tam.

“It would be an honour to be involved as a vice to Steve. I have not been playing well enough to be automatically considered as a player, but there is still a lot of golf to play this year, so we will see.”