Phil Mickelson, a fan favorite and a five-time major champion, and Brooks Koepka, the world’s top-ranked golfer, have committed to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Oct. 3-6 at TPC Summerlin, tournament officials learned Thursday.
Koepka, 29, has played in the Las Vegas PGA Tour event four times, highlighted by a runner up finish in 2016, while Mickelson, 49, has played in the tournament 12 times — but not since 2005 — and finished second in 2000.
“Just awesome, and we are very excited to announce the addition of two championship golfers to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open field, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson,” tournament executive director Patrick Lindsey said moments after receiving official confirmation that both stars would be playing. “Their commitments speak volumes to our hard work in attracting top-caliber players to Las Vegas’ only PGA Tour event.”
In November, Mickelson won $9 million when he defeated Tiger Woods in “The Match” at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas and also discussed a potential return to play in the Shriners.
“I wouldn’t rule it out (playing in Vegas again) because I like the golf course a lot and I think most of it will be what time of year it is,” Mickelson said. “I came close this year (2018). I wanted to get out here and play, but I just wasn’t quite ready.”
The Shriners Open is a month earlier this year, a move that appears to be helping to attract some of the world’s best golfers. The tournament no longer conflicts with several lucrative tournaments in Asia and is now played a month after the conclusion of the previous season.
Since last playing in the Shriners in 2016, Koepka has blossomed into arguably the world’s most dominant player with four major championship titles in the last three seasons including the 2018 and 2019 PGA Championship. This season, he finished in the top 10 in each major and third in the FedEx Cup. He won the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018, and finished second this season.
The two high-level commitments continue positive momentum for the Shriners as Lindsey recently announced that Adam Scott, Tony Finau, Brandt Snedeker, Louis Oosthuizen plus a strong local contingent of players including Charley Hoffman, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Scott Piercy and Aaron Wise were also playing. Bryson DeChambeau, the 2018 champion and the world’s 11th-ranked player, has also officially committed.
An intriguing subplot to the 2019 Shriners could be a potential Koepka vs. DeChambeau showdown. Koepka has been highly critical of slow play issues on the PGA Tour and has mentioned DeChambeau as one of the culprits. Koepka an DeChambeau cleared the air during an impromptu meeting on the practice putting green prior to the final round of the Northern Trust Open at Liberty National in New York in August.
“It’s not just him. I know he feels singled out, especially when I’m speaking about it,” Koepka told the media following the round. “But it’s like I told him, I’ve mentioned his name once, and that’s it. There’s so many guys out here where it’s become an issue, and obviously him being probably the best player that’s relatively slow right now, he’s going to be on TV a lot more, so you’re going to catch a lot more of those type of instances.”
DeChambeau was pleased with his conversation with Koepka.
“It was awesome,” DeChambeau said. “It was actually fantastic. I appreciate what Brooks did. I have high respect for him because he did that. There was one instance he said in Abu Dhabi, and he said, ‘Yeah, I said something about that, but it was in general and got blown out of miss proportion.’”
Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt can be reached at email@example.com or @LVGolfInsider.